Canada’s media agency selection process defined

May 05, 2021
Agency Media

Media is the largest line item in a marketing budget, and the effectiveness of that spend is closely tied to the quality of partnerships between marketers, creative agencies and their media agencies. What has never been documented for marketers is how to embark on the process of selecting a media agency and guidance on what to expect of the process. The CMA Media Council has created a document that will provide this guidance to all marketers in how they work through this process.

Here are the top five nuggets to consider when selecting a media agency:

1. Media agencies have IP too.

Asking for a plan in response to a brief is an as for intellectual property (IP), similar to the ask of a creative agency for concepts for a campaign. The approach, use of data and the tools and thinking behind the investment are the IP of the agency. When engaging in the agency selection process, asking for how they think is different from asking how they would address a particular problem. As media agencies manage your investment, it would be like asking a financial advisor for exactly how you would take your dollars and invest it and in what stocks, ETFs, etc.; More likely, you would ask them about their investment approach. We recommend similar guidance for your media agency selection process.

2. Agencies take a principal position in Canada.

Canadian agencies purchase media on behalf of brands. They buy a position for you and have payment terms for their media partners. Thereby, asking a media agency in Canada for payment terms of over 90 days can be paralyzing to their organizations. It is best practice and fair to pay your agency in 30–60-day terms.

3. You are buying more than media.

The agency’s talent needs to align with your expectations as a marketer. You are buying more than media and should truly explore the values of the media agency and how they support their employees, which includes their approach to diversity and inclusion. It is also important to understand their talent retention process including the compensation approach.

4. The pitch team and the day-to-day team won’t always be the same.

There is often the expectation that the people pitching will be on your business from the media agency, which often is not possible. Agency employees are already allocated to existing brands and are working hard on existing projects. It is very important to set the expectation of what you need in talent or have a discussion with the agency about what team they can put in place.

5. Timelines and timing matter.

As a marketer, you want to get the best out of the agency so that you can see what they can do to support your marketing and business objectives. Consider the timeframe and timing in your pitch process to ensure that the right people on both sides are available. For instance, running pitches over the holidays, the busiest time of the year for agencies, is not going to show you the best of the agency. Likewise, if you run your pitch process too fast, you won’t get good thinking, you will get rushed thinking. And, if you are doing it during the busiest time of the year for your team, you will likely end up with disengaged team in the agency selection process. 

Read more about the media agency selection process.

If you need support on your selection process, the CMA Media Council is available to answer your questions. Please contact Emily Abrahams to be connected to a member of the Council. 




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