When To Call An Agency Review. (And When Not To).

Anxious clients often ask us ‘when is the right time to do an agency review?’ – partly perhaps because they want to make sure there’s nothing they’ve missed in their preparation, but more often because they can be unsure about their underlying reasons for calling a review in the first place.

If we’re really honest here, nobody likes an agency review.  Marketers generally don’t like the upheaval, time commitment, logistics, coordination, legalities and ensuing disruption.  And agencies don’t like them because they take valuable resources away from client paying business and their success is never guaranteed.

When you shouldn’t

A good place to start is perhaps to answer the question ‘when not to call an agency review…’ because that helps eliminate some false starts in any review process.  Here are a few no-no’s to think about.

The last campaign sucked

If there were issues with your last campaign, then there’s a golden opportunity to figure out what went wrong by doing an honest 360 post mortem and looking at your own briefing and evaluation processes.  Figure out what happened, what went wrong; Everybody learns and measure improvement next time around.

The agency maybe too expensive

If money’s a question mark for you, consider a cost benchmarking exercise to find out what fair market value is for the services you’re asking for.  You may also want to look at your scope and whether that’s in-line with your original asks to your agency. 

We don’t like our [fill in the blank] person

Not everyone’s going to be a great fit with your team but that’s not a reason to change the whole agency. Figure out whether it’s really them or perhaps it’s someone on your team that’s exacerbating a problem, then request or make an individual change accordingly.

Performance is an issue

Performance shortcomings need to be addressed on a case-by-case basis, and marketers need to take time to define clear expectations and articulate a timeline to see measurable improvements.  Performance management is an everyday part of proactive agency management – and never a reason to switch agencies if you’ve not taken time to address problems.

You just want to see what else is out there

Window-shopping does not equal a reason to call an agency review.  Period.  

When you should

There are in fact only a very few reasons marketers should be pulling the trigger on an agency review.  In our opinion, the true justification for moving forward with an agency search are any of the following:

Change in scope

If your scope has materially changed and you feel either your incumbent may not have the necessary skill-set and / or there may be stronger agencies capable of delivering your new scope then a review may be the best way forward.

Government or corporate governance

Corporate governance driven reviews every x number of years – unless contract extensions can be obtained – are an inevitable part of doing business with large marketing entities. If that’s the case then there should be clarity around whether the incumbent agency should participate in the upcoming review.


When competitive client conflicts present themselves – either through mergers, acquisition, or new business wins, then an agency review may very well be the only viable solution.

Organizational change

In the same way that conflicting business can trigger an agency review, organizational change often point to a consolidation of responsibilities under different groups or certain agencies within client rosters.

Unresolved performance issues

Agency reviews called as a result of faltering performance are fine – providing the marketer has made every effort to define shortfalls and allowed a reasonable time for measurable improvement.

Malfeasance or breach of contract  

Yup. Fair game.

Agency reviews should be called only after careful consideration or, in the case of corporate governance, against pre-defined timetables.  Any review that’s called without such careful consideration should be viewed with skepticism to avoid history repeating itself down the road.

For more on when to call an agency review (and when not to), or to implement a best practice agency search – call your friendly agency search management consultancy.


Stephan Argent is Founder and Principal at Listenmore Inc offering confidential advisory to marketers looking for truly independent insight and advice they can’t find anywhere else. Read more like this on our blog Marketing Unscrewed / follow me @StephanArgent

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