Everything’s at stake for the agencies in the pitch, and there you are, on the outside looking in.

Account in Review Crashing Techniques

How can you get into that perfect review from the outside?

Have you ever wanted that peculiar great client, one that is perfect for your agency, only to watch as they start an agency review without you? You know the brand, you understand the market, and everything about this account fits perfectly in your wheelhouse. Now it’s gone into review and you haven’t even been contacted. Heck, you weren’t even in their “consideration set!”

Wondering how you can get in? What do you have to do to get considered? Or if it’s too late to get in?

All you know is you really want that piece of business. What to do? Check and see if the account in review is being run by a search consultant. And then decide if you want to try one of the five options below.

Search Consultant Approach vs. Company Search Approach

Review Run By Search Consultant

Review Run By Company

  • More structured, more formal, difficult to get in if not invited
  • Not difficult to get an RFP if you aren’t too late
  • More difficult to crash
  • Easier to crash
  • Less likely to let outside agency in unless you have a compelling reason
  • Clients impressed with agency anxious to be included
  • Client usually warned about agencies making direct contact
  • Clients can often be stampeded into including one more agency
  • Clients advised all contacts to go through search consultant
  • Little built-in prejudice against an agency crashing the review
  • By the time you have heard of search, it’s in later stages
  • Clients flattered at being chased hard
  • If you are a good fit, can embarrass the consultant
  • Better chance of success getting in, may upset the ones doing the work
  • If you are successful in crashing it, you may create an enemy
  • Expertise in category or some great insight into market helps


Typical Account in Review Crashing Techniques

  1. Direct Action: Simple enough – just call and ask to be included. It’s shocking how often this works for clients that are doing their own review.
  2. Direct Mail: Speed is important. Make it memorable. Create an impact. Don’t use flat mail. Be sure to go for widespread distribution of mailer, and give specific reasons why you should be included. Typical headline: “We don’t mean to pry into your review…” One agency went and produced a very clever magazine filled with great content (and ads) that ended up being passed around the entire company, and beyond. Ended up generating quite a few new leads.
  3. Tantalize with an Ad: Create an ad in the local paper or trade publication. It needs to be noticed. There is danger in that that it could backfire, and may be considered too public. A blind ad seems to work best. One example of a very vivid, memorable ad in a local newspaper that worked: the headline read, “Any Agency That Mistreats the (brand name) Account Ought To Be Castrated!” They got in the review, and with our help won a global account. I’ll leave the image they used to your imagination.
  4. Show That You’re Already Working: Quickly pull together some industry surveys and start your own proprietary research. Show progress to date. In one case we were able to get an agency in the review by having the president call the CMO and boldly stating that no matter who you choose you need to see this critical bit of consumer insight we just finished anticipating our invitation – now! He agreed, and within 24 hours we were able to pull something together and give a killer presentation. The CMO loved it, and invited the agency to pitch. The good news is they got to skip the first round and go directly to the final review. And they won.
  5. Big Gesture: There are times when you have to go big or go home. As soon as you hear about a review you really want, swing into action and let them know you’re interested. A few examples that really captured the client’s attention: Park an army tank on the front lawn, elephant in back yard, billboard across the street, fly a banner from a plane, anything to stand out and get noticed. In one case the entire agency went and sat in the client’s lobby until they had a meeting.

If you want to crash a new business review, remember the chemistry rules.

Key decision makers are people. And as such, one of the most important things to remember when trying to crash a new business review is the personality types of the folks at the top. As we stress over and over, there are four basic personality types. And your approach should be tailored. Don’t mismatch your message.

For example, a long time ago one big agency hired a well known creative director to boost their creative image. In an effort to appear more hip, creative and exciting (very different from their tired big old agency image) he tried to crash a big brand review by bringing a circus to the parking lot at the client’s offices (see number 5 above). This client happened to be driven by cautious, process driven-type people who were very embarrassed at the attempt and appalled at the wasteful spending. Needless to say, that approach failed and the big agency was sent packing. And shortly after so was the big named creative director.


Trapped photo by Aditya Doshi and used under creative commons