The Taylor Swift Agency Relationship Test

As with any business relationship, to be successful, the client–agency partnership depends on both parties establishing and delivering against a mutually agreeable set of performance expectations. However, the agency search process and eventual hiring of an agency feels more like finding a spouse, without the luxury of a courtship. Unfortunately, the true expectations of the client and understanding which expectations matter most are often left out of the discussion. While every client–agency relationship has its own idiosyncrasies, it has been our experience that if you ask the following five questions—and like the answers you get back—you will have a far better understanding of whether, as Taylor Swift would say, “… it's gonna be forever / Or, it's gonna go down in flames.”

Will I ever see you again?

The flipside of this question is “Who will really work on my account?” It is not uncommon for an agency to have a dedicated pitch team. There is nothing wrong with that as long as you recognize that a good portion of the people you’re meeting during the pitch phase are unlikely to work on your account in the future. You have every right to ask about the level of experience and the number of agency team members who will be directly involved in your day-to-day business. You can and should ask how the agency’s accounts or projects of similar size and scope to yours are staffed and how that may change over time. Not every project warrants or has the budget for the highest level of talent, but you deserve to know exactly what and for whom your budget dollars cover.

What kind of commitment are we talking about?

Speaking of budgets, structuring compensation has historically been one of the most confusing aspects of client–agency relationships. Project-based billing? Retainer? Mixed? Choosing the wrong structure can cause a lot of unnecessary animus on both sides. The simplest structure is fee for project, which is a fixed bid price for a predetermined scope of deliverables. Everyone knows what they start and walk away with, assuming the project follows the initial scope. An hours-based retainer is only slightly more complicated. The client commits to a minimum number of labor hours each month and pays for those hours up front. At the end of the month, any discrepancies between the hours paid for and the hours consumed are usually reconciled. A mixed project/retainer structure can be the most cost efficient for multi-project, longer-term engagements, but it requires the most reporting and reviewing. There is no “right” way to structure an agreement. A good agency will work with you to create just about any equitable structure you require. Asking a lot of questions about your options up front and about the level of detail the agency is prepared to provide will go a long way toward building and maintaining a transparent, healthy, and lasting partnership with your agency.

How will I know this is working?

Gone are the days when any marketer could get away with saying things like “You can’t measure that, it’s an awareness thing.” Everything is measurable given the proper preparation and timeframe. Ask any potential agency partner what tools and methods they employ to measure success. Their answer should require some input from you on what measures are important to your strategy—awareness, conversions, page rank, social likes and shares, and so on. In general, your agency should be able to offer you a variety of tools and methods for evaluating and reporting on success from a long-term strategy or a single tactic.

Would you mind if I see other people?

Marketing in our current communications environment is complex. Executing well across the spectrum of connection points increasingly requires drawing on a variety of specialized talents and expertise. While digital agencies can certainly provide services that support many of these connections, it is unlikely they are the best resource to handle all of them. You should ask any potential agency partner how well they play in the sandbox. Ask about their experience working on cross-vendor teams for their other clients, what worked well, and what could have worked better. Listen for how they characterize moments of conflict and resolution; it will tell you a lot about how they will fit into any team you are building.

What should I be worried about?

Experience with your business or industry is likely table stakes for any agency you’re evaluating. When you ask them if they know your business, most could honestly say “yes.” However, that doesn’t mean they are thinking about your business, your industry, or how it will be affected by market conditions or technological change going forward. Asking the agency what you should be worried about could reveal their nuanced understanding or foresight about your industry, your competitive landscape, and your challenges.

“You love the game.”

Of course, this is not the be-all and end-all question set for your next agency search, but they go a long way toward avoiding an agency nightmare dressed like a daydream.


Magnani is a digital agency that helps challenger brands amplify and accelerate their marketing initiatives.

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The Cubs, Loyalty and the Brand Experience

How can someone stay loyal to a brand that’s done nothing but disappoint year after year? How can someone choose to be associated with a brand so troubled, so pitiful, so heartbreaking that its perceived claim to fame is a near 100% failure rate?

It’s partially about hope. Tribal hope. I made the choice to be a Cubs fan long ago. In return for my loyalty, the Cubs made a promise to dedicate each precious season to trying as hard as possible to win a World Series Championship. There were plenty of years where we both knew that promise wouldn’t be fulfilled... but we pretended there was a chance. We as fans felt betrayed when big-money free agents were not signed, beloved personalities left and the product was underwhelming. But, in spite of it all we adored them for who they were; lovable losers. We celebrated the occasional spectacular play, come from behind win or three-homer game, but never the Holy Grail. That joy was reserved for others. We were made to wander the desert, never permitted to enter the Promised Land for ourselves. But Cubs fans carried on. We bought tickets, T-shirts and beers. Lots of beers. 

The Magnani Family on Parade Day.

The Magnani Family on Parade Day.

One of the most powerful brand experiences a consumer can have is when a product or service fails them and the brand efficiently responds with great customer service experience to repair the problem. It builds faith and trust. Consumers are quick to forgive a brand they trust. The product the Cubs produced was broken but they were great at providing a service of escapism. The team may have lost but they filled our summers with memories to cache, share and recollect for years. And for that we forgave them. The pain was a pivotal part of the story and the heart-wrenching defeat calcified our tribe. We bought more hats, more peanuts and more beer. A lot more beer. 

The Wrigley Faithful.

The Wrigley Faithful.

In case you’ve been living in a cave on Mars and haven’t heard the news yet, the Cubs won the World Series this year. The brand synonymous with failure has at long last achieved the pinnacle of success. The five million fans that attended the victory parade were rewarded with the ultimate customer service experience – a bizarre feeling of relief, success and unbridled joy.

As Cub fans, we’ve always felt appreciated and felt we received one of the greatest joys there was to have; the pleasure of baseball. The Cubs’ epic tale – from the out-of-it-by-May to dream season – has become our story. And in return, the Cubs have received our eternal loyalty. I am a brand advocate... for life.

-Brian Riley, Executive Creative Director and Managing Partner

Cubs 4 Life.

Cubs 4 Life.

 

 

Reflections of an Account Intern

As I wrap up my final two weeks at Magnani, I look back at my experience and reflect on all of the things I’ve learned, and how my internship has helped prepare me for a career in marketing. During these past few months, I’ve been able to make a solid contribution to the team by assisting with a huge social media project, and along the way I’ve picked up a few lessons on time management and leadership.

 

Current Career Opportunities

 

When I first started this internship just two months back, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I really wanted to make a contribution to the team, and I was anxious to find the opportunity to do so. Fortunately, I had the chance to job shadow several different employees at Magnani and sit in on numerous creative meetings. It was during one of these meetings that I was offered the opportunity to research and find the most effective social media automation tool to better serve Magnani’s clients and their ongoing social media campaigns.

 

The process of finding the best solution possible required a few weeks of research and testing different available platforms. During this time, I had the opportunity to work with Hootsuite, Sprout Social, and Simply Measured. Working with these diverse platforms taught me the importance that companies place on monitoring and reporting on their social media sites. Undertaking this big project also gave me the opportunity to take a lead on an assignment and invest my full effort toward finding the right solution for the company.

 

Who We Are.

 

As I worked on this project, I also learned the value of time management. As an intern, you have to be able to manage your time efficiently in order to assist with any client requests or to help out a fellow co-worker. There were a few instances where I would be working on testing one of the social media platforms, and another one of my colleagues would unexpectedly show up needing assistance with another task or assignment.

 

I’ve learned that as an intern, it’s necessary to make yourself available when needed and avoid saying “no” to extra work if possible. In order to deal with managing multiple tasks, I’ve found it’s best to prioritize each task by deadline, and then simply focus on each task until its completion. This method has helped me on numerous occasions to deal with any unexpected changes in my usual workflow, and I applied this tactic while researching and testing social media automation tools for this project.

 

Contact Us. 

 

Overall, I’ve really enjoyed my time at Magnani. The people and the culture really make this place a great creative agency to work for. Most importantly, my internship has taught me valuable lessons on project management and leadership. The skills and knowledge I’ve learned from my experience at Magnani will certainly serve me well as I move forward with my marketing career. 

Omar Hernandez, Digital Account Intern

Creative & the Cat

Last Saturday, Cat's Pride partnered with the Anti-Cruetly Society and the Orphans of the Storm animal shelter in Chicago to celebrate National Cat Day. Adoption fees were only $10 and every adoption came with a free six month supply of Cat's Pride Fresh & Light Ultimate Care litter and Cat's Pride Kat Kit! While a handful of Magnani employees were on-site to lend a helping hand, none did more than Associate Creative Director Mitchell Kraft who ended up finding a new roommate and giving Reagan a fur-ever home. 

Great organization and a great cause.

How could you say "no" to that face?

It's called, "bonding time".

Mitch and Reagan are cozying up to each other.

"I'll take her! Now, the paperwork."

Mitch and Reagan together fur-ever! Thanks to Cat's Pride and the Anti-Cruelty Society of Chicago for such a great event!

Awards Season

Press Release

It’s always nice to have good news to announce and we here at Magnani have plenty to celebrate! Magnani Continuum Marketing has been awarded eight MarCom Awards for outstanding creative achievements in marketing and communications.

We’re clearing off space on our mantle for four Platinum Awards including Cat’s Pride (Integrated Marketing Campaign and TV Commercial Campaign), Marriott St. Louis (Direct Mail Campaign), and Molina Healthcare (TV Commercial Campaign). One Gold Award for our work on Evoqua (Information Branding Video), and three Honorable Mentions for CNA Prepwise (Social Media Campaign), AARP (Jobs Work) and AANA (Branding Refresh).

Marcom Gold Award Winner - Evoqua Branding Video

The MarCom Awards are an international creative competition that honors entries including corporate marketing/communication departments, advertising agencies, PR firms, design shops and freelancers worldwide. The Marcom Awards have grown to one of the largest creative competitions in the world with more than 6,000 entries in 2016.

We’re proud to be recognized by the MarCom Awards, and even more proud of our talented and dedicated group of creatives, strategists, programmers and account team members who forged these award-winning campaigns through their strong efforts and bold visions.