Does the 4A’s Have a Plan to Gain Wider Adoption of Review Central by Member Agencies?

I’ve looked at the Review Central reviews of reviews, and I have a concern.

I don’t see any agency in a review situation being willing to post comments on that review, negative or positive. It would be burning a bridge with the client and/or the consultant that would impact negatively against the agency and BizDev person.

That said, how is this site going to acquire value if agencies aren’t willing to post? I see this as a well-intentioned experiment, but I would be surprised if it gained traction beyond a few posts from small-scope reviews. Does the 4A’s have a plan to gain wider adoption by member agencies?

Thanks,
Josh Davenport
Bernstein-Rein

  1. Tom Finneran says:

    Josh thanks for taking the time to submit a comment and share your views on 4A’s Review Central. I suspect that the questions that you have about Review Central may be on the minds of other agencies as well.

    Your larger issue seems to be that agencies don’t have the conviction or fortitude (or intelligence) to take a stand on anything that could potentially impact future connections. That may be true for some agencies, but I do not believe that it is generally true. It was not true when 46 of 55 new business committee members asked search consultants to protect agency IP. It was not true in the case of the Premier Studios that submitted a Report Card on the VFW review. It is not true on pitches where information is leaked to the trade press.

    I respect the fact that agencies should not violate NDA’s. That being said, Review Central allows anonymous posting, and allows posting and Report Cards to either disclose the advertiser (and/or consultant) or not disclose the advertiser. Review Central material should also include both positive and negative evaluations; how does a positive comment about a review burn bridges?

    If a review could have been conducted more effectively, and if an agency takes a thoughtful, principles-based approach to suggesting constructive alternative ways that the objective could have been accomplished, I suspect that the agencies reputation will be enhanced rather than tarnished.

    You asked: “how is this site going to acquire value if agencies aren’t willing to post?” Well, if agencies do not contribute viewpoints, comments and Report Cards, then Review Central will not achieve its value potential and will not succeed. However, I hope that there are agencies that are prepared to stand up for principles that they believe in and take the initiative to communicate their point of view to the community. We do need thought leaders to get the ball rolling.

    I have a question for members reading this comment: are you a thought leader? I’d like your thoughts on what 4A’s member agencies can and should contribute to Review Central.

    Tom Finneran
    4A’s Agency Management Services

  2. I understand that Review Central is an attempt to define best practices for consultants and advertisers, and to identify what companies and search consultants are making the best decisions in their search processes. I admire the effort to give agencies a bit of a leg up in a process where the advertiser has almost total control. This is probably an overdue initiative, however, I still must dispute the efficacy of Review Central for two main points.

    First, I still have concerns about the anonymity of the entire process of Review Central, however. If an agency is a finalist in a review, I think that they are unlikely to post a report card, as any information that they give is likely to make them easily identifiable by competitors or by the client/consultant. This may result in them being less likely to get into other pitches or RFPs. If they are known to post information on a potential client then there is already an absence of the essential trust that would exist between potential partners. As an ancillary point, if the Report card is made as anonymous as possible, it will lose value since there will be no truly differentiating feedback.

    Second, if the process isn’t truly anonymous, then adoption of Review Central is likely to remain low and then also reduce its usefulness as a tool for agencies. This will be the pertinent problem going forward. The 4A’s would have to make anonymity the priority with any effort of this nature.

    To this end, I have an alternative proposal that I wonder if the 4A’s has considered: what if Review Central were a place for agencies to post the RFPs that they get? They wouldn’t be posted until the review was done, of course. In this scenario, there wouldn’t need to be any identifying marks made on the questionnaires, so anonymity is assured. Agencies would find out what kind of questions were being asked and what might be expected of them through the RFP and review process and the 4A’s could work as an independent broker to identify what questions and processes worked best within the many reviews that they receive. Since there wouldn’t be any business practices or ideas from the RFP revealed, agencies would be more likely to share this information. You could call it something like “RFP Clearinghouse” and make it a microsite or blog like Review Central. Or, alternatively, instead of maintaining control over the site you could make it more like WikiLeaks and let anyone post these documents themselves. I leave that question up to you and the 4A’s.

    I’d be glad to discuss this or any other concerns that that 4A’s has in regards to the continuing struggle to reassert some measure of agency control over the review process. I admire that 4A’s a great deal and am excited this initiative.

    Josh Davenport

  3. Tom Finneran says:

    Thanks for your suggestions on Review Central. Last year, the 4A’s collected “Worst of RFP’s” and “Best of RFP’s” (see the 4A’s Business Development Blog posts and comments dated July 8th 2009. That initiative was of some value; the value was primarily derived from member comments on what constitute a “good” RFP and what resulted in “bad” RFP’s.

    Merely collecting RFP’s after the fact with out flagging notable dynamics may or may not be of value to members.

    Review Central is intended to include new business activities beyond RFP’s; that being said, let’s see if we get any feedback from the blogger community on your suggestion. What do 4A’s agencies think?

    Tom Finneran
    4A’s Agency Management Services

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