An advertising agency is a consultancy and a range of factors need to be taken into account in appointing the right consultant. These factors include level of expertise, standard of service, fee schedule, cultural fit and a host of related factors.
There is some doubt today about the value of advertising agencies and especially traditional agencies. Whether or not an advertising agency should be engaged at all is an important question.
If it is appropriate to appoint an advertising agency, a number of factors need to be considered to identifying the right one. Critical factors include the 9 that follow:
- A clear understanding of what marketing is.
- Marketing is a behavioural science. It is in essence the business of causing specified target audiences to do what you need them to do, in order to achieve your objectives.
- A clear understanding of what marketing is not.
- Marketing is not advertising. Advertising is a small subset of marketing. The other aspects including the product, service, customer engagement, price and distribution being more important, and all have the potential to reduce advertising costs.
- A clear understanding of what a brand is and what branding is.
- Your brand is what your target audiences say it is. Branding is the process of reducing the gap between what your brand should be and what it is. Branding drives sales, repeat business, referrals, margins, staff retention and staff performance.
- An understanding that data trumps intuition.
- Marketing strategy has for far too long been based on intuition, perhaps supported by some research. Cost effective marketing involves, gathering all the hard data required to make decisions based in evidence rather than unreliable intuition.
- An understanding that science trumps creativity.
- Creative expertise is stock in trade for an advertising agency, and without them an agency is of limited value. It must also be understood that behaviour management is all about science and if the science is wrong, the creative is most often worthless.
- An understanding that listening trumps talking
- This point is valid for both the relationship between the agency and the client, and the client and its customers. Understanding requires listening, whether that listening occurs in meetings or by way of research, it is an essential precursor to talking.
- Creative expertise
- The creative pitch is exploitative and rarely productive. That said, an agency needs to have high level creative expertise and a recognition that it is not just the content that needs to be creative. The strategy, and media buy also need to be creative
- Accountability expertise
- Marketing, brand and branding are becoming more and more about data. Most agencies can execute a strategy – but it requires expertise to and assess the data required to ensure that all activities are fully measurable and accountable
- Transparency expertise
- Advertising agencies despise transparency. It is an anathema to their business model. That said full transparency is possible and should be available. The black box approach and hidden charges levied by agencies are not in the client’s best interest.