By Barbara Bacci Mirque
At the recent 2009 ANA Agency Relations Forum, Sarah Armstrong from The Coca Cola Company updated the audience about Coke’s journey with value based compensation. You may recall that Coke first spoke publicly about this at the ANA’s 2009 Advertising Financial Management Conference because they wanted to socialize the marketing community to this new agency compensation model with the hopes of more widespread adoption of a construct that has been discussed for the past several years with little action taken against it. They wanted to expose their learning so that as more advertisers utilized VBC they would add to the body of knowledge on how to generate maximum results, thus benefiting all advertisers including Coke. Coke has rolled their VBC plan to many markets and expects full implementation by 2011.
Along the way they have made some refinements but the central tenet still remains the same–Coke believes that there is no correlation between the amount of hours an agency works and the value it provides. It is not about cost cutting Sarah emphasizes, it is about focusing on the components of business growth. But Coke feels very strongly she adds, that they are no longer going to guarantee their agencies’ profits if the agency performance does not meet up to certain predetermined standards. An agency can make up to a 30% profit if it meets a set of prearranged goals–or none at all. The importance is that agencies are being measured on results–not on hours worked. There is no doubt that for marketers, labor based compensation was an advancement over fixed rate commissions. But spending hours and hours constructing and tracking labor based compensation does not move the business ahead nor does it work well in an era of integrated marketing. Advertisers generally agreed that although progress had been made, labor based compensation was not the end game. But not much progress had been made on moving forward. The groundbreaking work of The Coca Cola Company certainly adds to the debate–and knowledge–on improving agency compensation. The discussion will no doubt continue for years to come.
ANA members interested in participating and sharing their agency compensation learnings should consider joining the ANA’s Advertising Financial Management committee.