Don’t Be Sidetracked by an Agency’s NASCAR® Slide
- Virtually all agency presentations contain a slide displaying a large collection of client logos – sometimes called a NASCAR® slide
- Although these slides can be very impressive, it’s important to look beyond the logos to understand more about the services the agency provided
- Have a thorough client reference process in place to understand whether the agency is really a good fit for your needs
One thing that makes stock car racing unique in professional sports is the amount of visibility that sponsors get. Cars usually have the logo of one major sponsor splashed across the hood, with the logos of countless other sponsors also plastered on or inside the car. In fact, any visible surface on the car or driver is fair game for a sponsorship of some kind. After a race, the winning driver often performs a “hat dance” – changing hats multiple times during the post-race interview to optimize sponsor exposure.
This logo-laden bonanza is what gives the “NASCAR® slide” its name. A fixture in any agency’s pitch to B2B organizations, this slide displays the logos of companies the agency has worked with. Seeing large companies and familiar brands helps assure potential clients that the agency can be trusted. After all, if its clients are very large and well-known brands, the agency must be legitimate, right?
Not so fast. Before the presenter advances to the next slide, it’s worth asking a few questions:
- Are these current clients? Many agencies display logos of past clients. While the practice itself is not dishonest, sometimes the agency doesn’t make this clear. Some agencies include clients whose services may have been provided by team members – before they joined the agency. So it’s important to get clarity on which clients displayed on the slide are actually current clients. If the relationship ended, that may simply have been the result of project work running its normal course, but that could also be a sign that the relationship soured for some reason.
- Were you the lead agency? A big enterprise logo in an agency pitch can be very impressive, but remember that large companies often use several agencies, so this logo doesn’t necessarily signify that the presenting agency played a significant role. In some cases, an agency may come to work with a big brand because that brand acquired a smaller company that already engaged the agency. Probe for more detail about the relationship. What was the agency’s specific role or area of responsibility? Sometimes the answer to this question reveals that the agency actually played a very minor, tactical support role, which may have little relevance to the work you are looking to do.
- Were you engaged at the corporate or division level? With large companies, gaining an understanding of where in the organization the agency engaged is especially important. Was it a central corporate marketing group with a focus on corporate brand, or a business unit focused on a specific market and offering? Was it a regional marketing group supporting field marketing activities? Depending on your goals for the agency relationship, you may find that this information increases or decreases the relevance of the big-name logos.
- What specifically did you do for this client? Choose a logo that interests you – either because it’s in your industry or because it’s a company you’re familiar with. Ask some probing questions: What did you do for this company? What results did you achieve? Are you still working together? Part of what you’re gauging is the comfort and honesty with which the presenter handles the questions. If the presenter is unable to provide details or exhibits a hint of discomfort in discussing the client, these are signs that there may be more (or less) here than meets the eye.
In any agency presentation, the presenter should always set aside time to provide some relevant case studies in more detail. The agency should choose examples that reflect well on them, but that are also relevant to your business. This part of the presentation is generally more informative than a slide filled with logos, so listen carefully for capabilities or potential issues that relate to your situation.
While asking probing questions during the presentation is important, pay this same level of attention to customer reference conversations. Sometimes organizations that are hurrying to get to the finish line of the selection process don’t take the time to speak to an agency’s current or past clients. This is a mistake. The investment, resources and effort needed to onboard a new agency are significant – don’t miss an opportunity to vet the agency with the people (clients) who know it best. You could save yourself from an expensive wreck somewhere down the road.
Want to learn more about managing the ins and outs of agency relationships? The SiriusDecisions Agency and Services Provider Lifecycle Framework covers the whole process, from creating an effective RFP to notifying an agency partner of termination. Contact us to learn more about the range of resources we offer in the area of managing agencies and other vendors.
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NASCAR® and its marks are trademarks of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc.