A Consultant’s Perspective: Q&A with Mike Drexler of Drexler Fajen & Partners

Between media companies, advertising and marketing agencies, and the clients who hire them, there are dozens upon dozens of moving pieces at stake in their interactions. However, moving across all three branches of this industry are consultants, whose agencies work between clients, agencies, and media companies to ensure growth for all three, and provide insight into industry trends, shifting relationships, and opportunities that may be around the bend. So, we at The Makegood thought to bring in one of the most championed, knowledgeable consultants in the business, and pick his brain.

Mike Drexler of Drexler Fajen & Partners has been in the media business for over forty years, and knows the industry backwards and forwards. He was the CEO for Optimedia and True North Media, the EVP of Media for Ogilvy, DDB, as well as Bozell and FCB, and the EVP for Mediasmith. He was the founder of Drexler Geller Associates and has guest lectured at the Harvard Business School. He has been published as a contributing author for “Marketing In An Electronic Age,” published by Harvard Business Press, and has been acknowledged as one of the top 100 executives in, “Leadership Secrets of the World’s Most Successful CEO’s” published by Dearborn Trade Publishing.

We sent Mike some questions hoping to gain insight into the things agencies should be asking when pitching themselves to new clients, things to consider that may not be apparent, and war stories of pitches gone awry:

Hi Mike! Thank you for agreeing to sit down with us. What do you think agencies should know about the agency selection process?

Agencies should ask more questions about what the client is looking for and why they are going into a review. This can be asked of the consultant or the client directly. It is best asked when the CEO of the agency can privately ask the client or the consultant instead of a group. It can also be asked of the consultant when they are queried about the second stage of a review. Most RFI’s are general in nature and there are rarely different answers from one agency to the next. The agency review process is pretty standard and only when a challenge assignment about a client’s problem is asked does the agency really know why the review is taking place.

What do you wish agencies knew about how client’s decide on an agency?

Agencies should know what criteria are most relevant to the client in terms of agency capabilities, approach to problem solving and how the client culture works with an agency. The agency CEO must personally connect with the client CMO.

What do you think agencies waste time in articulating, and what are clients sick of hearing?

Number one, by far, is that “I can buy media cheaper than anyone else”. They are also sick of hearing about standard resources and capabilities (the kitchen sink) without demonstrating exactly how certain assets are used to solve the clients problem.

What are clients thinking about that’s may not be on an agency’s radar?

Can I work with these people? Are they responsive to my needs 24/7? How do my people match up with theirs?  Who do I go to if things go wrong and how soon can I expect it to be fixed?

How are consultants sifting to assure agency transparency?

Most consultants are now asking agencies to sign a statement in an RFI to assure transparent practices. They are also asking agencies specifically how they handle potential rebates and other methods if offered by the media. They want to know specifically what is happening and it now must be put into every client/agency contract. Full transparency is now the right of every client.

On the topic of war stories:

Boring a client at a presentation by having the wrong people at the meeting or not addressing the specific client brand or lack of knowledge of the category. I’ve seen it many times. Always fails.