Companies rely primarily on their advertising agencies for guidance in nearly all areas of marketing communication. Customer’s perception of a brand is a synthesis of the bundle of messages they receive from the company’s communications, the strongest of these being advertising. This makes choosing the right ad agency for your company a crucial decision.
STEP #01 – INTERNAL AUDIT
To find the agency that is the perfect fit for your company, you need to have a clear picture of your own requirements. After all, there is no one solution that fits all. Here are some questions that one needs to answer internally.
What is your marketing budget for the next 2 years?
What are the advertising programs you have tried in the last few years? What would you like to do differently?
Who is your target audience? Has it changed in the last couple of years?
What services are you looking for? Is it only television and print advertising? Do you wish to include social media? Are you looking for individual, specialised services or an integrated marketing agency?
STEP #02 – SCOUT FOR THE MR. RIGHT
Choosing an ad agency is not unlike choosing a marriage partner. You have a list of what you want, you look at some probable agencies which fit the bill and then start asking colleagues and friends for their inputs. Most importantly, can the agency be a partner in the growth of your business – the perfect communication partner for you?
Choose a mix bag of agencies to ask for pitches if it is a big project. For smaller projects, you can ask for informal ideas and limit your exposure till you are sure this is the right agency for you – not unlike the engagement period where you are committed but still have an option out if things do not click. Outline exactly what you need in your campaign, the timeline, and budget. Give the agency a clear idea about what you expect from them and then weed out the ones which do not meet these expectations.
STEP #03 – CHECK OUT THE CHEMISTRY
Your agency partner needs to respect your views, listen to what you speak, and professionally challenge you to collaboratively develop the best solution to make the perfect communication partner. Often a smaller agency might be a better choice since they would be able to devote more time and attention to small and midsize accounts. A rule of thumb would be that if the head honchos of the company are not personally pitching for your account, the agency is too large for you.
STEP #04 – TRUST PERFORMANCE. NOT PRESENTATION.
At times, marketers select an agency based on industry reputation and profile alone. While this may feel like a good starting point, it often does not deliver the promised results because of a misalignment of the agency to the strategic needs of the advertiser. Often an agency will come in with a team of 10 people with presentations and colourful charts and hi-resolution photographs. While choosing an agency, go beyond the presentation and look at the idea – it should be vibrant and relevant. More than anything it should be a fit for your company’s communication strategy.
STEP #05 – MONEY. MONEY. MONEY.
An ad agency that comes close to your budgetary expectations, work style, and size will more likely lead to a beneficial relationship. A higher ad spend does not always amount to more revenues. Effective advertising means the right ad spend in the right media at the right time. So while you certainly do not choose the agency which has the lowest bid, going with an agency well beyond your budget will burn a hole into your pocket.