The view from the consultant's desk, with Joanne Davis Consulting

Joanne Davis talks about the ebb and flow of agency search; in-housing's position in the eco-system and has sage advice for small agencies

da Carol Mason , AdForum (NYC)


Joanne Davis Consulting
New York, Stati Uniti
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In the second of our consultant interview series, Joanne Davis talks about the ebb and flow of agency search, in-housing and external agencies working in tandem and gives some sage advice to small agencies.

Please describe your consultancy – what is your geographic reach; along with pitch consultancy, what other services do you provide to clients; what is your background? Joanne Davis Consulting specializes in agency reviews/searches and client agency compensation. We are not a pitch consultancy, and have long found the word “pitch,” less than respectful to agencies. We are a US-based firm supporting global and US clients. We also help clients improve their agency relationships to get more out of their investment. Notably, we only work for clients to avoid conflict of interest. My background is agency executive leadership, followed by client-side CMO. Our team members have held C-suite level roles at agencies or senior leadership levels on the client-side.

Taking a top line look at the industry in 1H 2022, how active has new business been this year? Do you see this metric as a barometer of industry health? Agencies have been reaching out to us saying “new business is slow, our pipeline is thin, what do you have for us?” New business activity has been slower in 2022 in part because 2021 was very active following the pent-up demand and lock-downs in 2020. Usually, when new business is heavy one year, it lightens the next year - a typical ebb and flow we see. Interestingly, in spite of this slow down, agencies are more selective than ever about the accounts they want to work on. This is a direct result of the challenges they face attracting and retaining talent. And let’s all keep in mind that we and other advisors continue to recommend that clients try to resolve issues with their current agency before resorting to a review.

The Pitch Positive Pledge has gained momentum in the UK. Brands, consultants, and agencies are making a promise to improve the entire pitch process. What can a brand do to improve the process on their side? And the same question about agencies? We have long taught the same guidance that is in the IPA/ISBA Pledge. The specific guidance is sound. I add to it that brands should provide clarity about the entire process timeline.

What is your view of the growth in client-side in-housing, do you think this is a trend that will continue? In-housing will continue based on the need to move swiftly and the need to generate more content cost-effectively. It will not replace agencies. Rather, internal resources and external agencies will need to continue to work to strike the optimal balance of assignments and integrated ways of working.

What advice would you give to a small agency looking to land a major client? Do good, get credit. Pursue a couple of projects for brave clients willing to do step-out work and help them get visibility and success. That will help the small agency get more from the major client, as when the client work is noticed, so will be the agency who did it.

And last, what gets you excited about an agency that you are shortlisting for a review or search? Agencies that are all in from day one. An agency we might have thought was a long shot that embraces the opportunity. And an agency that is quick to respond versus us having to chase them. 

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