New benchmarking service pledges to end ‘perception and reality’ gap of media agencies


Stephen Wright

A new benchmarking service backed by marketing business consultants TrinityP3 is set to launch in Asia which its architects claim will help media agencies better assess their strengths and weaknesses and give marketers a clearer understanding of which agency they should hire.

The roll out of Calibrator – or Calibra8tor to give the company its official spelling – is already underway and follows its launch in Australia earlier this year.

It is being led by former Trinity consultant Stephen Wright, who founded the business, with TrinityP3 Singapore-based senior consultant Mark Bowling spearheading the expansion into Asia.

TrinityP3 Australia-based founder and managing director Darren Woolley is also a co-owner of Calibrator.

Wright, in Asia this week for talks with agencies, said it will help bridge the “perception and reality gap” by uncovering exactly where an agency excels and where it needs to raise its game.

Speaking to Mumbrella, Wright said the business will conduct “detailed and granular” examinations of agencies based on “comprehensive scoring metrics” which are methodically applied across all agencies.

Eight areas of the agency will be investigated – trading, strategy, stability, market profile, success, consumer research/insights, data and analytics and performance measurement – with each containing four separate metrics of measurement.

The assessment ultimately leads to a set of results which set down the strengths and weaknesses of the agency.

Wright stressed that no agency will be excluded from the assessment, but only those who subscribe – at a cost of around $44,000 a year – will be given access to the results and the ability to benchmark themselves in the wider market. No agency, however, will have access to the results of specific competitors.

“I wanted to set up something that looks at what media agencies do and how well they do it, because there is nothing in the market the does that,” Wright said, adding that few agencies “embrace” RECMA which “tends to reward scale and size rather than quality”.

Calibrator“We will sit down with the agency and make a proper and thorough assessment of all areas of the business using a consistent scoring framework.”

Wright conceded there remained a degree of subjectivity to the assessment, but claimed the scoring system is designed to limit that.

“It’s a very detailed and granular scoring process,” he explained. “With any system that has qualitative assessment there will an area of subjectivity that creeps in. But what we have done is create something that is detailed and has such a comprehensive scoring framework that it minimises subjectivity as much as as you can.”

Bowling, who will conduct the assessments in Asia – starting with regional headquarters before expanding to agencies’ satellite offices scattered across the region – said the system will provide management teams with an  understanding of their “strengths, weakness and where their opportunity lies”.

“It will also help them decide what their market positions is,” he said, “People think media agencies are all the same but having worked in some of them they are not. They are dramatically different. Calibrator will add depth to the industry and show what agencies are all about.”

The Australian launch was eyed with suspicion from some quarters, with agency sources suggesting TrinityP3’s involvement, and its continuing role in running many pitches, represented a conflict of interests.

Darren Woolley dismissed the criticisms at the time, with Wright also rejecting any conflict.

“There was a misconception that if an agency didn’t subscribe they wouldn’t be included on lists of prospective agencies. False,” he said. “Every agency is being scored, and if you don’t subscribe we are not going to score you any differently. There’s a very robust scoring system.”

He added that Calibrator sits separately from TrinityP3 and will likely be made available for other pitch consultants.

Bowling added: “We only have a product if we assess the entire industry. It’s in our best in interest to have that fair assessment.”

Wright said an independent analysis will also address what he described as the “perception and reality” debate.

“The frustration for media agencies is that the ones with good systems find it very hard to get credibility because the ones with ordinary systems are saying ‘we’ve all got the same tool box’,” he said.

“One of the sells for Calibrator is that we score all of those systems so now agencies can say to prospective clients there is an independent entity that looks at how good our systems are against the market.


Mark Bowling

“There is a perception of an agency and a reality. There are some who have a far better product than the perception because they are not marketing themselves well enough. Equally, there are others who have been fantastic at perpetuating the story, the myth.”

Asked if some firm were pulling the wool over the eyes of marketers, Wright said: “Let’s say their product is playing catch up with their promise.”

For marketers, Wright said Calibrator will give them a better starting point in a pitch process as it can marry up the needs of the brand with those agencies deemed best placed to provide the services.

“As a client you should end up with a smaller list of initial agencies in the pitch process,” he said, adding it will also provide marketers with new-found knowledge of what a media agency is actually capable of.

Wright said many marketers are often oblivious to what services an agency can offer, with some still basing their appointment of an agency on personal friendships.

“When you sit down with a client and go through their needs….you very quickly find out that most clients don’t think about their media product anywhere near as deeply enough,” he said. “It’s almost a revelation to them that a media agency can do certain things. That’s one of the reasons we set this up.”

Most marketers are simply too stretched, and don’t have the understanding, to properly analyse the performance of their media agency, he added.

“Most of them can’t tell you how well their media agency is doing with any degree of commitment or certainty,” Wright continued.

“I used to have a written brief for prospective clients that would ask ‘what do you like about your agents, what do you dislike, what do you want from an agency’.  They would fill in the form as quickly as they could without really thinking about it.

“A marketer can’t say what they want if you don’t know it’s possible or available. We will solve this by creating this capability benchmarking service.”

Steve Jones


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