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AAI Mutual Decision™
Expert advice on choosing the right agency

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Read David Wethey's blog: Making Better Decisions Better! http://www.makingbetterdecisionsbetter.co.uk/ Marketing Society blog: http://blog.marketing-soc.org.uk/tag/david-wethey
Follow me on Twitter: @davidwethey

AAI Mutual Decision™
Choosing the right agency partner is critically important for any marketing organisation.

With a wealth of experience in successful search assignments, we offer expert consultancy through and beyond the selection process, ensuring you get the agency you really need, and make a flying start to the new relationship, without wasting time and investing unnecessary resource.

That is why many leading marketing organisations rely on AAI for their agency search and selection regardless of discipline.

The benefit is being certain that you have chosen the right agency partner at the right price committed to helping achieve your business goals. This peace of mind gives you more time and energy to focus on other priorities.

No two assignments are precisely the same. And when you factor in the human 'chemistry' element of choosing any relationship you'll see why nearly 25 years ago we developed a structured methodology to apply to the process. This classic approach worked well right up to 2012. But we felt the need to change.

Why we have now adopted the proprietary Mutual Decision™ system Pitches have become far too long-winded, thanks mainly to two factors: the tendency to involve too many agencies, and the increasing amount of speculative creative work asked for by clients, and offered by agencies. As a result, the process has started to look exploitative and expensive. David Wethey was one of the cross-industry working party selected by ISBA and the IPA to work on the ‘Good Pitch’ initiative in 2011. The resulting accord called for more transparency, more respect, more access for agencies, shorter pitch processes and the courage for clients to try new ways of finding new agencies. But disappointingly little has changed.

AAI resolved to take a commercial initiative, abandon the traditional approach, and devise a model taking an average of only five weeks, involving far fewer agencies, no speculative creative work, and an emphasis on finding the closest possible fit between the client’s requirements and goals and the winning agency’s capabilities, resource and track record. We wanted a system to choose an agency – not a campaign.

Mutual Decision™ is that system. There are only five stages before the mutual decision of the client and the winning agency to work together instead of 10-12 in the classic ‘creative shoot-out’ process.

And beyond the mutual decision, AAI offer counsel and facilitation during the Pre Joining (decision to contract) and Joining (contract through induction to full operational efficiency) phases.

1. Discovery
AAI work with the client defining the exact scope of the review:
  • Current and future communications strategy/challenges
  • Current agency arrangements – strengths and weaknesses, terms of business etc
  • Defining precise criteria for the agency review
2. Search
  • AAI agree timetable with client: six weeks maximum, targeting one month
  • AAI prepare a confidential consideration list of agencies (with full credentials / details / creative work / success stories / client references)
  • Reduce to four maximum (with one/two reserves)
  • Invite short list to participate. Call up a reserve if an agency declines the invitation. Sign mutual NDAs
  • AAI brief agencies as to what is wanted
3. Mutual Interview
  • Client and each short-listed agency meet for two way individual interviews
  • Each session commences with an outline brief on precisely what the client is looking for from its new agency
  • Each party interviews the other
  • After these interview meetings, client and each agency decide whether to proceed
  • Process continues with only two/three agencies involved – to simplify selection and increase the odds for each agency. Agencies informed
4. Briefing
  • AAI and Client develop a written brief for the final interview meeting – to be shared with agencies in advance
  • Live brief will cover goals and commercial and strategic issues, as well as detail on proposed Scope of Work. Plenty of time for Q&A
  • No creative recommendations asked for or wanted
  • Each agency paid a fee for preparing presentation and delivering it at Final Interview stage
5. Response – Final Interview
The agencies present at final interview meeting:
  • Response on brand, market, strategy, commercial considerations
  • Most appropriate case histories, success stories, demonstration of capabilities
  • “How we’d go about it” recommendation on proposed SOW
  • Proposals on team, individuals, co-operation with other agencies, liaison internationally or with other parts of client organisation
Agency presentations not unlike a TV documentary

Initial financial discussion off line from this process


6. The Mutual Decision
  • Client decides which agency it most wants to work with
  • AAI puts offer to the chosen agency, who decides whether or not to proceed to the joining stage
  • One/two other options if winning agency opts to pull out
  • AAI handles standing down and debriefing of other agencies
7. Pre-Joining
  • Commercial discussions up to and including signing a contract (involving procurement and legal, as well as marketing, agency and AAI)
  • Dealing with any minority views on the client side (eg advocates of one of the losing agencies)
  • Scope + Agency Response + Negotiation
  • Way of working
  • Heads of Agreement / TOB
    • Remuneration and Incentives
  • Contract
8. Joining
  • Two-way induction
  • Commercial discussions post-contract on deliverables
  • Agreement on 100 day targets
  • Agreement on 6 month targets (kpis)
  • Agreement on mutual evaluation system
  • Team beds in
  • Medium and long term planning for what the relationship is designed to achieve
  • Creative Development starts
AAI’s role
  • Sharing our experience with clients and agencies over 24 years
  • Managing the pitch – fee paid by client
  • Help and advice through pre-joining, joining and first six months – fee jointly paid by client and agency
  • On-going evaluation – via proprietary AAI Evaluator system
MUTUAL DECISION™ IN SUMMARY
Choosing an agency – not a campaign
  • Not exploitative – fairer and better balanced
  • More ethical – clients can’t be accused of choosing on the basis of free goods
  • More effective – focus on criteria and fit
  • More efficient – because it’s faster
  • Less costly for everyone
  • Creativity judged on client work, not instant response
  • Pitch ends properly, so that relationship can start properly
  • More emphasis on a smooth transition and a flying start
 



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Tania Zimmermann



AAI's counsel and industry knowledge throughout the pitch process for our Cup a Soup and Supernoodles brands was invaluable. That, combined with a great process and a very dedicated team of professionals meant that we got an excellent agency within a remarkably short and pressurised time period.
Tim Perman, Marketing Director
CAMPBELLS