How to choose the right ad agency — Part 1 of 4

Part 1 of a four-part series

So you’re thinking about working with an ad agency. Maybe you want to launch a new product. Or perhaps it’s time for a brand refresh. Whatever the reason, choosing the right agency can make all the difference to your success. An agency essentially functions as an extension of your team. You should be able to interact with them seamlessly and trust them completely.

There are many ways to go about finding a good ad agency. The following tips will streamline the process and help you get the most out of your relationship.

Big or small ad agency?

Advertising agencies come in many different sizes. There are pros and cons to working with large and small shops.

Supersize me

Big agencies usually have high caliber talent and abundant resources. But if you’re not a major brand or have a massive budget, you may not get the superstars working on your account. Large agencies sometimes pitch with the A-Team but often assign the B-Team to the account. And while these agencies have grown largely because of their success, some have a reputation for not giving clients the attention they deserve.

Small is beautiful

By working with a smaller agency, you can team up with senior-level talent for a fraction of the cost. Smaller agencies are also more nimble — they can usually move faster than large agencies and turnaround time can be quicker. Small agencies have less corporate hierarchy and many specialize in particular industries. They’re known to go above and beyond to ensure client satisfaction. At the same time, however, smaller agencies can lack the bandwidth of a larger one, though that can be overcome with planning that can allow for staff additions.

Culture is key

Ad Age says when you hire an ad agency, you hire a culture. They recommend working with an agency that is collaborative, inventive and proactive. We couldn’t agree more. You’ll be able to tell if you like an agency’s culture just by walking through its doors. Do you like their vision and philosophies? Are they fun to be around? At the same time, be sure to ask about their processes. Find out how the agency handles projects that are over deadline and budget.

Experience can make a difference

What about deep category experience? For instance, if you work in the automotive market, should you choose an agency with experience in your industry? The answer depends on what you’re looking for. If you want an agency that’s already familiar with your industry — one that can hit the ground running when you give them their first assignment — you might want to select an agency with an automotive niche. However, if you’re looking for a fresh perspective or an agency that won’t bring any bias with it, choose a shop that has limited experience in your industry.  

Love the work

Whatever you do, choose an agency whose work you admire. If their body of work doesn’t wow you, move on. Look at both concept and design when evaluating their portfolio. Is the design timeless or trendy? Does the writing move you to action? Does it true back to a marketing strategy?

Bottom line, the agency’s work should be memorable. The ideas should make you think, “Wow, I wish I would’ve thought of that.” Keep in mind the average person sees between 4,000 and 10,000 ads per day, so the work needs to make a statement.

Like the people

Similar to other businesses, ad agencies are built around people, so choose an ad agency with people you like. You’re trusting them to help you sell your products and services. You’ll be working with them a lot, so make sure they’re a group of people you wouldn’t mind having a beer with. In the end, your gut will tell you if they’re worth working with.

Without a doubt, a lot goes into choosing the right agency. There’s no right or wrong way to pick the shop that’s right for you. It’s worth the effort to find the best agency. Remember, they will function as part of your team and you should be able to trust them with any project.

Next in this four-part series, we’ll talk about what you should expect from your agency once you’ve selected who you want to work with. Join us next time for Part 2.