It can't be easy selecting an experiential agency these days. The industry is booming, and, on the face of it, there is very little to differentiate between the players. So as an agency that has been in the game for nearly 20 years, we thought we'd share some potential pitfalls. If you're a client reading this and it sounds familiar, sack your agency - you and your brand deserve better.
1. Too much of their business is your business
Do you know what percentage of your agency's turnover is effectively you? If it's more than 30%, alarm bells should be ringing. If they go under, your campaign, assets and investment go with them, so make sure you get sight of their finances.
2. They can't keep their clients
Which companies on their client list do they currently work with? A great test of an agency is how long they can retain their biggest relationships - ask to speak to their longest-standing clients personally.
3. They lie about their numbers
Every honest agency in this industry has come up against a competitor that lies about reach, interactions and sample figures to win pitches.
Make sure you really question the numbers being presented to you, and be sure that what's promised is eventually what's delivered.
4. They're just nodding heads
Are they the experiential experts, or are you? When you write a brief, do they just gleefully snap it out of your hand and get to work, or do they give you the benefit of their years of experience? If they're not consultative and able to tell you what will work and what won't, look elsewhere - it's Mad Men, not yes men, remember.
5. They mark their own homework
Does your agency insist on bringing in an independent research company to measure the effectiveness of their work, or are they happy just to give you a bunch of anecdotal figures from their event manager? Clearly demonstrative ROI should be at the heart of their campaign strategy, and a mature agency will insist on independent research to prove they're as good as they say they are.
6. They rob you blind
Does your agency tell you how much things really cost? Expect to be offered a transparent costing policy, and if you aren't, look out for the classic poker tells when they present their budget.
7. They don't look after their biggest asset
Every agency should tell you their biggest asset is their brand ambassadors. Find out how they recruit, train and motivate the people that represent your brand in the field. Remember: your brand ambassadors are the living and breathing embodiment of your brand - make sure you're getting the best.
8. They're a revolving door
It's assumed agency people can't sit still for long, but that isn't always true - the best agencies retain the best people. If your agency can't keep a happy team and you're constantly being introduced to new people on your account - ask why.
9. Their trophy cabinet could do with a dust
It's not all about the silverware, but it's nice to be recognised by the industry - every year. Have a look at their awards next time you're in their office - are they pride of place and shining?
10. They're just no fun
Staff at your agency are the colleagues you can actually choose to work with, so make sure they're the best part of your day - life's too short to spend with boring people.
Again, if this all sounds too familiar, remember: you're the boss, and you and your brand deserve better.
Dan Hall is business development director of iD Experiential