Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How to Hire an Ad Agency

In June of 2007 alone, huge advertising accounts worth over $1.7 BILLION (wow) changed the advertising agency they were working with. Why? Because every time a company switches CMOs (Chief Marketing Officers) they typically switch ad agencies. They want to bring their own people in or they simply haven't seen the progress needed to keep working with the current ad agency.

Advertising is and can be an exciting, fast paced, very visible business and when businesses are advertising it makes them look really good. Especially to the competition. The relationship between business and ad agency is based on experience, confidence and trust. When trust is broken, the relationship ends.

For whatever reason, too many companies make their ad agency selection based on the wrong criteria. This causes undue heartache, inefficiency, confusion and a fair amount of lost productivity due to the new agency having to 'catch up' to the current branding and advertising standards.

Here are 10 guidelines on how to choose your advertising agencies carefully. We'll start with 5 things you shouldn't ever do.

Limit your search by Geography
While the fasted way to build a relationship is via face to face interaction, trust can be built over a distance. After all, aren't the most solid relationships built from long periods of separation? Keep in mind, you're looking for the right fit, not the closest agency on the block. If you had a medical problem that only a specialist in Zimbabwe could solve, would you limit yourself to a 50 mile radius? Of course not!

Screen out agencies based on size alone
This can go both ways. Don't count the little guy out - sometimes they have the best ideas. Likewise, if you're a small business and you court a large advertising agency, don't think you're not worth much to them. You could be in exactly the industry they've been looking to do work for.

Consider how agencies develop over time: talented people enter the workforce and stay a while. The good ones stay with the company and grow with it. The Great ones tend to run it after a while. The Best Designers and Advertisers leave that company and go do it on their own. The result? A small firm with huge potential. In addition to that - smaller agencies tend to have the best workers instead of interns or mid-level designers working on your projects.

Ask for spec work
This is a huge no-no. This is like asking the grocery store to give you free food, and once you taste it, you'll pay for it. Is that going to fly? The farmer who spent 3 months growing the food from seed to basket thinks not. Another reason? Most spec work is farmed out to cheap freelancers who are nowhere to be seen once you choose the advertising agency you're going to work with.

Letting the Spreadsheet to the Talking
It can help to develop a checklist of pros and cons of each advertising agency, but in the end, go with your gut choice instead of relying on numbers. A larger agency is almost always going to win that war, and even the best small ad agency in the world can't compete with such high turnover.

With this information, how do you actually choose an advertising agency? It seems like an impossible task when you've first started out, but over time, with several courtships, you'll be able to put your finger on the agency that does it for you.

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