Seven years ago, I went to pitch a client with my boss and learned something that would fundamentally change the way I think about how marketing agencies work.
He was the CEO of the Facebook marketing agency I worked at that used proprietary ad technology to help us get better results on Facebook than our competitors that didn't use our ad tech.
Our team consisted of several engineers that built the tech, and myself, the Facebook ads expert, that ran everything for the clients.
My boss would over promise and I'd explain how we would try and deliver.
In this meeting, he told clients that our agency had proprietary tech that would give us a performance edge over our competition because we had an algorithm that would identify the top performing creative, derive insights, and then make recommendations on what creative we should iterate to continue to improve performance over time.
The client signed on the spot and we went back to our office.
As we were walking back down Madison Ave (I wish I was joking) I naively asked my boss about this creative recommendation algorithm that made us better than the competition, as I had no idea the engineers had been working on this.
After breaking out in laughter he stopped, looked at me, and said, "Kevin, you're the proprietary algorithm."
As I've gotten older, wiser, and experienced working with more agencies, I've learned that this is the way the marketing agency world works.
Technology helps us be more efficient, better marketers, but the vast majority of what agencies sell to brands is a flat out lie. They do this because, at least in the short term, the lie works and closes deals.
Here's proof. It's mad libs for pitching:
Step 1: "We're a team founded by ex Google/Facebook Engineers."
Step 2: "We've built proprietary algorithms/technology that identifies/optimizes bidding/creative."
Step 3: "AI/Machine Learning"
Step 4: "We can only show you these screen shots and can't disclose further information because it's proprietary."
It gets old.
I see the same ad accounts from the same agencies that make that same pitch all the time because they churn after their contract ends.
You can't obfuscate revenue forever and the smart brands eventually realize why they're plateauing or not getting the results they were promised.
"The algorithm needs more time/data to optimize properly," says their rep.
Nope, it doesn't. You're just lying.
Metric Digital uses technology that we've built that helps us drive incremental revenue. Is it proprietary tech? Yes. Is it ultimately why you should work with us? No.
Work with marketing agencies that have a track record of success and a client page of brands that you aspire to be like. Talk to those brands on their client pages and ask them about their results working with that agency. Don't settle for screen shots or "we can't share that with you because it's proprietary" answers.
Don't end up being a brand we talk to that churned through the same agencies that gave the same pitches and had the same bad outcomes.