Picking an Advertising Agency Begins with Research

By Nucifora, Alf | THE JOURNAL RECORD, November 19, 1997 | Go to article overview

Picking an Advertising Agency Begins with Research


Nucifora, Alf, THE JOURNAL RECORD


Nothing is guaranteed to consume more time, waste more money, involve more risk, or cause more frustration than selecting an advertising agency. However, if care and thought are applied to the process, it can lead to a solid, long-term relationship that can be a key factor in the success of your business.

An agency/client relationship is very much like a marriage. You're looking for an advertising partner who will become intimately involved in your business -- somebody with whom you can form a close, working bond. Conventional wisdom to the contrary, the agency selection process -- and the relationship that develops after that process -- will be dictated very much by the chemistry that develops between the two parties. Do I like them? Are they my sort of people? Can I communicate freely and openly with them? Will they understand me?

If you don't know anything about selecting an agency, consider hiring an outside consultant to guide you through the process. A number of experienced, competent advisers are available in most major markets. However, if you want to handle the process by yourself, here is a simple road map that will guide you through treacherous territory. Do Your Homework. Make sure you do your research up-front to determine what type of agency would best suit your needs. It's important that you find a shop that can handle the specific type of advertising that your particular product or service demands. Is your product consumer oriented, or business-to-business? Does your field require a specialist, someone, for instance, who can handle trade advertising for a high-tech product? Is your product line mature, your advertising style conservative? Or, do you want a hot, creative shop laden with aggressive street fighters? What are your requirements in terms of agency size, location, creative reputation, marketing strength, research capability? And, how will the size of your account fit into the agency's roster? If you're too small, you may not get the attention you deserve. But, if you're too big, you may strain the agency's limited resources. And, always look for an agency that can grow and expand with your business. Here are some other criteria to consider: * Ethics -- Are they an honest and reputable agency? * Success -- Can they show a pattern of success with existing clients? Remember, success is not just providing a great creative product. For a retailer, it has to be an advertising product that brings bodies through the turnstiles and makes cash registers ring -- the following day. * Turnover rate -- Are they attracting and keeping good people? How often do they lose accounts? Are they good at getting new business, but bad at keeping it? * Financial stability -- Have they been in business a long time? How well do they run their own business? Remember, if they are not good business people themselves, how can they be expected to be good custodians of your money? Are they paying their vendors on time, or are they using the client float to finance their internal operations? * Conflicts -- Do they already have a client who competes with you? * Service -- Do they believe in service overkill? Will they react quickly to your needs? Remember, advertising tends to be a business that demands rapid, responsive turnaround. * References -- What do their existing clients say about them? Don't hesitate to ask for client references -- and make sure you call them. Developing the short list. How do you develop your short list of agency candidates? If you do your homework and tap into the industry circuit, you can find out quickly who the good and bad agencies are, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. The Journal Record Book of Lists contains a detailed, encyclopedic listing of all of the advertising agencies in the city, including the largest and the smallest. Another good source for financially stable agencies is the American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA), the official trade organization for advertising agencies. …

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