Many small businesses lack the expertise, time, and resources to create an effective professional ad campaign. Rather than randomly or blindly selecting an ad agency, choose an agency that can provide your business with a strong advertising strategy, an evolving creative development, and a fitting media selection. Your search strategy should include research, an evaluation of qualifications, and interview components.
Research. Compile a short list of agencies that might be right for you.
1. Consult a directory to find information on advertising agencies, public-relations firms, media-buying services, and specialty ad shops. Popular directories include Advertiser & Agency Redbooks from National Register Publishing and Adweek Directories Online.
2. Request referrals from colleagues in business organizations, industry associations, and professional groups.
3. Screen effective advertising by your competitors and other similar-sized businesses. If you see something you like, call the company to inquire which agency produced the work.
Review. Evaluate the qualifications of each prospective agency.
1. Review a portfolio of recent work, with particular consideration given to those samples created for clients with budgets similar to yours.
2. Meet with agency staff, including the people who might be working on your account, in order to identify chemistry or a lack thereof. Get an idea of what each agency recommends for your ad campaign.
3. Check references. Ask each agency for a list of companies with whom they have worked, and contact each one.
Make an assessment. Before you make a final decision, ask yourself these questions to determine if a particular agency will be a good fit for your business:
1. What is the extent of the agency’s experience with clients industry or business sector? Do they specialize in retail advertising or business-to-business advertising?
2. Is the agency large enough to handle your business but small enough that you won’t get lost? A one- or two-person shop might not have the resources to respond quickly and effectively to your needs. On the other hand, a big agency may have impressive credentials, but you could end up playing second fiddle to larger accounts.
3. Will you get attention from partners or top-level staff? Who will handle your account on a day-to-day basis?
4. Does the agency have expertise in the medium that interests you, be it television, radio, print, or the Internet?
5. Is the agency knowledgeable about your business? Does it understand your competitive positioning? Does it present creative solutions for your advertising needs?
6. What is the caliber of the agency’s media department? If the agency does not have a media department, then you will be responsible for placing ads.
7. Will you be charged on a project basis or fee-for-service basis? What are the hourly rates? What’s the estimated cost for any outsourced work?
8. Does the agency seem flexible, open, and committed to your business goals?
Keep in mind that ad agencies vary in several ways, including size, minimum budget, and business and industry sectors served.
Does the agency’s style and corporate culture match yours? Are you on the same wavelength? Putting together an ad campaign is a creative, collaborative endeavor, and you should feel completely comfortable with the agency and its staff.