Why Use an Ad Agency?
The easy answer is: "You don't have to." Many businesses (large and small) handle all their advertising in-house. But that takes talented and well-trained people. So the first reason to use an agency is cost. It's often much less expensive to pay an agency than it is to pay employees. The second reason is that agencies typically have more combined experience and talent than in-house teams, especially at small to mid-size companies. Agencies can draw on that experience and skill to work faster and more efficiently creating projects and campaigns. Third, agencies know reps at TV, radio and billboard companies. They know printers and where to find other advertising related resources. They are also adept at creating messaging and visuals that are consistent and well-designed. Last, agencies typically produce more creative work than in-house teams. Creative work gets noticed and gets results.
Aren't Ad Agencies Expensive?
Rates at advertising agencies can vary significantly. Most agencies price their services at rates that match client size and revenue. Agencies working with Fortune 500 companies are going to charge a lot more per hour than an agency that works with small to mid-size companies. Rates are also based on the quality of the work being produced. High-end television commercials that air nationally will naturally cost a lot more than a regional or local spot. That's not to say you can't get great quality work from a small agency. You can (and we'd like to think we're proof). But just like any specialized service, you can expect to pay at least $100/hour for most ad agency services. That's about the same rate you pay to get your car repaired or hire a plumber. So the notion that advertising agencies are expensive is a bit of a myth. Especially if an agency produces video in-house, which can require tens of thousands of dollars worth of professional equipment and software.
What if I had a Bad Experience with Another Ad Agency?
We hear this a lot. There is a tendency in the advertising industry for agencies to wildly over-promise and under-deliver, especially when it comes to digital and online advertising. If you're promised quick-results, large percentage-based sales increases or a specific number of leads each week, you're probably being oversold. Even the best advertising campaigns and initiatives take time to deliver results, and the very meaning of the word "results" can vary. For instance, if an agency increases traffic in your store, but there is no increase in sales, is the agency doing its job? We would argue they definitely are by bringing in customers. The problem here isn't the agency, it's the customer's in-store experience or perhaps the availability or price or the products being advertised. Measuring advertising results can be complicated, and promising things that are unrealistic is unfortunately commonplace. So our advice is to ask to speak with some of the agency's other clients, ask for samples of the types of work you want and ask how the agency is going to measure the results of their work. After all, the entire goal of advertising is to generate potential customers and leads.
Can't I Save Money by Bidding Out Each Marketing Project?
We're sure you can. But at what cost to your overall company messaging and design consistency? And what about the time and energy you'll spend communicating and working with each vendor, then keeping track of billing and expenses? Working with an agency shouldn't be viewed as simply an expense. It should be a partnership. The better an agency gets to know your business, the better they can do what you pay them to do; find potential customers and persuade them to call, visit or email. Not to mention you'll have one point of contact for your marketing instead of several vendors. Last, it frees you up to spend time running your business.
Will Agencies Really Give Objective Opinions to Businesses?
Many business owners need someone outside the company to give them unbiased opinions about their marketing and advertising. It’s difficult for employees and media reps (in our opinion) to give advice that doesn’t benefit them. Employees have a tendency to agree with the boss while media reps have a sales manager back at the station wanting them to close a media buying deal. Conversely, an advertising agency isn't primarily paid based on the amount of advertising they sell. Rather, they are mostly paid for their time and a percentage of the media they place. This means they can offer advice that is not influenced just by a desire to get the sale. At Hall Communications, we're not afraid to tell clients the truth. It doesn't benefit us to sell you something that won't work! Our goal is to create a long-lasting relationship that helps grow your business, not make a quick sale.
Is Creativity and Design Really Important?
This is a tough question to answer. Most advertising agencies stake their reputation on the creativity of their work. But you've probably been influenced more than once in your life by advertising that isn't particularly creative or well-designed. So our answer is, "it depends." If you're selling products or services in an incredibly crowded and competitive market space, then it's definitely important. Likewise, if your product or service falls into certain market categories, like gaming or entertainment, then creativity and style are also important. But if you're selling HVAC service for a company, trying to be too clever with your messaging might actually work against you. One such company told us that their most successful marketing tool is a plainly written, text-based email campaign. Plus, think about how many times you've seen a wildly creative television commercial but had no memory of the brand, product or service? So creativity is great as long as it serves the brand and product messaging. But don't believe it if an agency tells you that every successful piece of marketing has to be wildly creative or include innovative design. It's just not true.