Agency Review or New CMO – Which First?

Hello and welcome back to another agency search quick tip from AAR Partners! AAR Partners is an agency search consultancy that has been managing agency reviews since 1980.

This week, we had a question from a corporate marketer at a semiconductor company in New England, and she wrote in:

“We are about to launch an agency review since we need an agency partner to assist with some very pressing deliverables; however, we are also searching for a new CMO. Should we postpone the review until we have the CMO on board or should we press forward with the agency search?”

Well, this is a common question, and there are really two possible solutions. First, what is your company’s situation?

  1. Is the CMO role going to be filled within the next few weeks? If so, hold off. Let that new CMO be apart of the process.
  2. Will the CMO role be filled in the next few weeks/months? In this case, you may not want to postpone the review because you do have some important issues that need to be taken care of with the help of an agency partner.

Now, if you decide to move forward, there are 2 concerns that need to be addressed appropriately.

  1. The new agency’s concern: Eventually, the agencies that are pitching for the opportunity are going to find out about the open CMO role, and there is a valid concern. Those agencies are going to feel as if the new CMO will come in and potentially question the new agency that was just selected and worse, replace that agency with one of their previous agency relationships because they feel more comfortable with them.

    So, if that is the concern, which it is (and again a valid one), the agencies that you invite to pitch on the opportunity might pass on it.

  2. The new CMO’s concern: Your new CMO might come in and feel like they had nothing to do with the search process, which of course they didn’t, so they might question the new agency or worse, question the process in terms of what happened to identify that agency.

So what do you do? The council is really quite simple. There is a person on your marketing team right now that is going to report to that new CMO. Make sure that he or she is involved in the entire pitch process from beginning to end. Do they need to go to every single meeting? No, not necessarily but they certainly need to feel that they were involved, they need to go to the final pitch presentations, be part of the final pitch debrief meetings, and of course, be involved in the final agency selection.

Since that particular person will report directly to the new CMO, there should be no question about the process itself and the agency that was selected. Also, have someone on the search committee write up a single sheet overview of the process from beginning to end.

What were the meetings that took place? What happened in those meetings? What were the decisions that took place? What was the rationale behind the decisions? This way, this overview can be turned over the new CMO once they are on board. This way, that person can quickly review the entire process and feel comfortable about the process itself, the granularity of it, and of course, understand that it was a very comprehensive process.

There you have it! That is my suggestion and counsel to this particular question.

If you have any burning questions about your agency search, please write to AAR Partners. Post your questions onto Twitter or LinkedIn, be sure to use the hashtag #AskAAR and every other week, I will be here answering your questions!

In the meantime, good luck with your agency partnerships, good luck with any future agency reviews, and keep in mind, AAR Partners has been managing agency reviews since 1980, and we would be delighted to help you too!