This article was originally published on Forbes.  User acquisition within the mobile landscape is highly competitive, and media-buying agencies are always under pressure to perform for their clients. However, agencies can become complacent, which leads to underperformance on campaigns — click-through rates dropping and user acquisition costs rising. A stagnating media-buying initiative is ultimately costing the marketer considerable sums of the budget. How do you reset the cycle of agency underperformance? Introducing: “bake-offs” — agency versus agency competitions designed to increase digital media performance for brands in both the short- and long-term.


How To Drive Agency Performance


High stakes, high pressure. Bake-off-style agency competitions offer marketers a way to generate greater performance and transparency across their digital media ad campaigns. These head-to-head competitions between two or more agency teams (internal or external) can reap greater benefits than simply an uptick in performance. They can also lead to better communication and relationships between brands and agencies that provide value for the long run.

For instance, a brand could match a new potential agency with a current, well-performing agency and ask the two teams to acquire the highest-quality iOS and Android users for 30 days. Each agency will then have the opportunity to showcase its expertise in acquisition strategies, planning, and execution to achieve a set target and reap the client rewards based on performance.


Structuring Your Bake-Off

Once you’ve selected your agency teams for the competition, set your ground rules and goals. It should be very clear which metrics and performance results you’re using to evaluate performance among your agencies. For instance, performance can be measured on return on advertising spend (ROAS), volume, click-through rates, or other key performance indicators (KPIs).

Also, set the frequency and transparency of communication on results between your agencies to ensure consistency and to remove bias between them. We recommend exchanging metrics twice a week, such as Tuesdays and Fridays, to ensure all parties are informed of performance.


Competition Ground Rules

Your bake-off should have a limited period of time to run, such as 30 days. This will generate returns quickly for evaluating performance. Set a goal for spending, as well. For instance, a budget of $100,000 per partner with the requirement of spending 90% of the budget within the timeframe will demonstrate an ability to drive scale and volume. You can also distinguish how you’d like the budget set between platforms and which types of ads to test (e.g., display versus rewarded video).

To create a level playing field, seed your agencies with a fresh account. Also, with the same creative and audiences at the start of the campaign. After the first day, allow your agencies to optimize creative and audiences separately to gauge ability.

Maintain transparency between your competitors by distributing performance reports across the teams twice weekly, such as click-through rates, install rates, and revenue generated. But do not share creative or other best practices. Communication of results through the campaign is a motivator for driving greater performance.


The Stakes

You guessed it — the winner takes all, gladiator style! The outperforming agency with the highest net profit driven by their media buying campaign in this competition will gain access to the brand’s accounts and acquisition budget going forward — clear and simple.


What Brands Can Expect To Gain Through Agency Performance

Bake-offs will generate the best practices of each agency in developing creatives. Also, the winning creative concepts and new variations will seed into campaigns. As a result, this will further reduce spend on non-converting ad creatives.

Further, marketers will gain best practices for user acquisition from each agency and more data to identify issues. Shifting budgets weekly between campaigns based on performance throughout the competition will also increase performance. An uplift in the acquisition, revenue, and ROAS can certainly be anticipated in an intense competition such as this.

Too many cooks in the kitchen? An additional, unexpected benefit for advertisers is that the process will make transitioning from managed to self-service campaigns far easier. Thus, trimming down overhead to run campaigns.

It’s a competitive mobile market and brands must think creatively about how to optimize their resources to drive performance. The bake-off should be a strategy within every marketer’s arsenal for more effective results this year.


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