Select Resources International, opened five years ago, now orchestrates some 30 reviews each year for accounts with billings ranging from $500,000 to $80 million. A veteran of Grey Advertising and McCann-Erickson Worldwide, Mr. Agate maintains what he calls a "library" of information on 120 agencies-actually, shelves filled with black binders containing a portfolio of each agency's print work and collateral, as well as a fact sheet. Each agency also submits a 10-minute video.
Each shop pays an annual registration fee ($5,000 for larger shops, $2,500 for smaller ones), and winning agencies are charged a $5,000 "service fee."
That's in addition, of course, to the fees charged to clients for conducting the review. Those range from $15,500 to $40,000.
To be added to Select's library, agencies are required to fill out a questionnaire that Mr. Agate called "the most comprehensive in the business." But, he said, it doesn't ask for sensitive financial data: "There is no disclosure of anything the agency would be unwilling to disclose."
Although he maintained his searches are open to outside agencies, Mr. Agate insisted that "there's a huge value for agencies in signing up that goes well beyond making it easier for them to participate in reviews."
Those benefits include such services as new-business consulting.
"These agencies are our clients, and we try to help them be the best they can be and get to the next level. That's why we're as successful as we are," said Mr. Agate, who is currently searching for regional agencies for Starbucks Coffee Co. and handling Hilton Worldwide's $40 million review.
Critics, however, contend that outside agencies are included only at the behest of the client or when the nature of the review demands it.
Few critics, however, are willing to speak for attribution, saying they're afraid to publicly criticize Select's practices because of Mr. Agate's increasing clout in the new-business arena.
Once hired, Mr. Agate requires a client input document, which includes questions such as why the marketer is unhappy with its current agency. Mr. Agate insisted, though, that hiring him doesn't automatically mean an account is going into review.
"We always start by trying to fix the relationship if we can," Mr. Agate said, noting that he has a financial incentive to save the incumbent since Select's