Choosing a Design, Marketing or Ad Agency

Choosing an appropriate design, marketing or ad agency is important – more important than what drapes to hang in your living room and more important than many things that might keep you from putting in the proper amount of research and thought.

These days price is definitely a factor, however, the adage “you get what you pay for” most times applies. The standard has been to find an agency that either touts itself, has big clients, or has been given some fancy award – but there are some small boutique gems who really know their stuff. They offer big agency services and expertise at boutique shop rates. The point here is that picking an agency should be about picking the best agency for you, not just the best, biggest, or most decorated agency.

What a good agency should do:

1. Look & Feel

Far too often we see agencies that have their own style. Each piece they create, regardless of the client or project, comes out looking and feeling the same. You can look at a piece and say, “Oh, So & so Agency did that.” Their own style is overshadowing what should be your business’ unique look and feel. To compare it to another art form, it’s like watching a movie where you cannot see the character because the actor himself is overpowering the role. It would be like watching Elvis playing a part in The Notebook.

When it comes to look and feel (your corporate style or brand) your agency shouldn’t show its own style in your projects, they should show yours – at every level. Your business’ style shouldn’t just be pulled out of a purple hat; it should be carefully developed from real information, your marketing strategies, and research. The agency that is best for you will deliver high quality, effective work that showcases your business – not theirs.

Select an agency that can adapt to your business’ unique look – whatever that look should be.

2. Awards vs. Results

Another common agency shortfall is the inability to measure and provide results on their products. Let’s face it. If you bought a car, you’d expect it to take you places. What if the automaker didn’t think about whether or not the car should work and get you places? Can you imagine this type of scenario? Sadly, this is the expectation and state of typical creative agencies. They take on a project, make it look good or cool and hope it performs out in the market.

Your agency should deliver results. If you’re paying for creative, it should perform. Your creative firm should produce great creative. If they’ve won awards for their work then you can be confident that they have one side down. But, if that award-winning design doesn’t increase revenue, get new customers, or lead to a gain in market share – it’s not working. Great design should get real results.

Look for an agency that can deliver great creative AND get results. Hiring an agency to develop your creative projects is an investment, and it should yield a return.

3. Size Matters?..

There are advantages and disadvantages to small and large agencies. Let’s go over the disadvantages of both first. Small agencies lack the internal bandwidth to do very large projects and may outsource some project components that they may not be able to do. This can sometimes lead to “1099” syndrome (when independent contractors are disconnected from your results). Sometimes small agencies may be slightly slower on turn around times (but they can also be much faster too). Large agencies employee many people, have lots of equipment, larger buildings, more bureaucracy, and more overhead of all sorts. As a result they tend to cost more and might not consider working on smaller projects that cannot provide them the margins they need to keep on truckin’.

Now the advantages. Small agencies often grant you access to one or more of the agency’s principles. These are professionals that should have decades of experience and one or more relevant degrees. Most principles have worked for years in larger agencies and can provide valued input for your projects. Small agencies can also be more flexible with pricing, project size, and can offer you more personal service. Large agencies can offer you all the resources you need “in-house.” As a result, turn around is sometimes faster on project deliverables. Large agencies also have name recognition, so you can brag to your golf buddies.

Now What?

Take the selection of an agency seriously. Your agency should fit your organization. Do your research. Get to know the agencies you are considering. Let an agency take you out to lunch. Don’t make your decision based on size or on their name. Remember to find an agency that does not supplant your brand with its own style, that does focus on your business’ results (not just on creative), and make sure your have weighed the advantages and disadvantages of both small and large agencies.

By the way, if are looking for an agency, let us take you to lunch. Click Here.