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Samsung’s approach to using performance measurement to maintain creative excellence

Antonia Tullock - Observatory International Antonia Tullock Consultant, London March 1, 2023

The consumer electronics giant Samsung has been working with The Observatory for eight years to create a best-in-class performance measurement architecture for its agency roster. Consultant Antonia Tullock outlines the key elements.

Measuring the performance of your agency roster is one of the pillars of better marketing. It’s not always simple and the journey can take time to evolve. Samsung has been developing its approach for the last eight years.

We started working with Samsung on its performance measurement programme in 2015.  Prior to this Samsung had undertaken with us a rationalisation of its agency roster, reducing the number and types of agencies and ensuring the very best capabilities were available to its teams. The agency performance measurement programme was the next logical step to ensure that the relationships with its agencies remained strong and everyone was aligned to deliver creative and marketing excellence.

Since then, we’ve developed the key building blocks that enable it to ensure every one of its partners is performing and delivering on their key KPIs, both as individuals and as a collective team.

Best practice agency performance measurement framework

Key elements of Samsung’s performance measurement architecture are:

  • It’s holistic and continuous – Samsung uses the Observatory International’s Agency Performance Tracker tool (APT) to review around 20 of its highest spend agencies. The biannual reviews provide feedback and insight to keep the relationship on track. They also enable cross-roster agency comparisons as part of the roster management process.
  • It’s 360o – each review includes key stakeholders, in multiple grades and roles, from the agencies and Samsung teams. Almost 1,000 individual APT responses were received in 2022. Involving a cross section of people ensures all voices are heard and the representative number of stakeholders involved provides robust results and detailed feedback.
  • It’s consistent – measurement of key relationship criteria – Team, Strategy, Deliverables / Evaluation and Feedback and Operational matters – provides trend data and enables early identification of issues to facilitate rectification before bigger problems occur.
  • It’s benchmarked – this provides a reference for on-going improvement and cross-roster comparisons to help the Samsung teams identify where more support and focus needs to be in the agency relationships.
  • It combines quantitative and qualitative analysis – ‘heat-mapped’ dashboards of results provide rapid identification of both best-practice and issues. Respondents are encouraged to provide verbatim comments, especially when their scores are particularly low to provide more context to the feedback and support earlier resolution of issues.

Action planning and reviews key to making agency performance measurement impactful

What makes this system work is that each survey period also includes time invested in review meetings on a division and agency basis. Samsung ran almost 100 review meetings in 2022 to discuss survey scores and determine the recommended course of action to take. The action plans and meetings provide a forum to resolve issues, allocate responsibilities, and optimise performance. This builds strong communication, value, and credibility to the whole programme.

There is a clear framework for the management of the agency performance reviews, which is regularly communicated to all stakeholders. This underpins the credibility, fairness, and importance of the whole process.  The involvement of The Observatory International also acts to ensure impartiality and independence for the process.

The critical ingredient is the value that Samsung places on the process. It invests time and resource to its agency performance measurement. It has a dedicated Agency Relationship Management team, which is supported by The Observatory International.

These are worthwhile investments because Samsung recognises the agency performance review process empowers it to continually strive for creative excellence. The pace of marketing delivery at Samsung is intense – it has a wide portfolio of products to service with a regularly programme of new product launches and updates. Therefore, having agency partners that know and understand its business and ways of working is vital to success.

Maintaining long-term agency relationships

Whilst there have been some changes in the roster, to bring in new capabilities and expertise, the core roster has remained the same.  The agency performance measurement programme has been key to that continuity – identifying problems early and then working hard to understand the issue and put in place actions to resolve it.

As a result, Samsung and its agencies have enjoyed longer-term working relationships.  It’s clear from the feedback in the performance reviews that the agencies enjoy working with Samsung – there is a strong partnership, and, as has been proven time and again, strong client-agency relationships deliver great work.

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