Five Tough Tactics To Tackle Ad Agencies

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Jul 8, 2024 by Sean Luce

As a boy, I used to play Stratego, a two-person, war-type board game. The object was to uncover the opponents flag before yours was found. Whenever a confrontation occurred between one of your pieces and one of your opponents, the hidden number behind the player was revealed. This decided who won that battle.

The same tactics apply when working with agencies. You must understand how they work, and you must find out what it is they really want. You must "uncover their flag.

Here are five tactics you should understand when dealing with agencies:

1. Bring Ideas: Agencies want good ideas. Tom Haynes, who is now the Director of Strategy for Acuity Marketing, spent more automotive money than any agency I can recall in Houston, Texas. According to Haynes, his No. 1 need was fresh ideas for clients.

Many agencies are insecure about someone else taking the credit for a good idea. When an agency understands that you are trying to work with them and not against them, this can only enhance your relationship.

2. Understand the "15 Percent Rule": If the goal from the agency is $90 a point (CPP/CPM-points vary depending on the media), in most cases they have a spread to work with, and their real goal is usually 15 percent over what they quoted. They want you to give them a reason to come in over their original goal.

Sell the value of your media company. Can you deliver an exclusive audience they cant get anywhere else? Following the event you tied their client into, do you put together a promotional recap? Do you run their schedules and placement of ads as they ordered them?

3. Build a Relationship With The Agency: Do you know the principal of the agency? The media planner? Account supervisor? Most importantly, the AE? We usually have a relationship with the agencys media buyer, who in most cases is taking orders from her higher-ups.

If buyers ever change within the agency, you want to make sure you have relationships with people who can help you stay on the buy. Because they are used to working with you, this will also give you power in situations where you cant meet CPP or CPM goals.

4. Know the Client: Who pays the bills? Clients change agencies quite often. Dont get too caught up in having the relationship with just the agency. We overlook who we really need to cultivate the client. If the agency is too insecure about you going to see the client, its their problem, not yours. In the long run, the agency thats like that tends to lose the account.

5. Provide Exceptional Service: Buyers want you to be the eyes and ears for their agency. Are you sending them industry trade articles from magazines that pertain to their clients business? Have you ever walked the clients business and done an in-store survey, noticing trends, demographics, and the psychographics of the business? Agencies want knowledgeable sales reps who are in tune with business.

Uncovering the flag in Stratego is no different than uncovering the real reason agencies will keep working with you. They want you on the team to help the clients achieve their goals, not just CPP/CPM goals.

Sean Luce is the Head National Instructor for the Luce Performance Group and can be reached at

As seen in Radio Ink Headlines 2-25-13

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