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    6 min read

    What Makes for a Good Advertising Agency?

    By Shawn Jordan

    The last couple of decades have seen a significant change in the way businesses market their products and services, mainly because of the widespread use of the internet. To make your business visible in the rapidly growing online world, it is crucial that you advertise yourself in the right way. The process becomes considerably simple if you partner with a suitable and reliable advertising agency.


    Given that you get scores of alternatives from which to choose, the selection of an advertising agency requires paying attention to different factors. While great ideas still form the crux of most successful advertising campaigns, there are other facets that play a role in determining the progression of an agency-client relationship. Besides, making the right selection is important because of the time, effort, and money that go into the process. What you want, in the end, is more leads converting to customers.


    How to choose an advertising agency

    What Do Leading Advertising Companies Have in Common?

    If you’re wondering “How do I choose a good agency?” or “What do advertising agencies do?” start by taking a look at the common traits of some of the industry leaders. This is what you may expect to find.


    They Advertise Themselves Successfully

    If an advertising agency is unable to market its services successfully, expecting it to have the desired effect with your campaign is not the way to go. An agency that specializes in digital advertising should have a visible online presence and boast of receiving high volumes of organic traffic. If this is not the case, you might want to take a look at the next alternative.


    They Value Talent

    No matter whether you look at big or small advertising agencies, they are only as good as the people they employ. Top advertising agencies look for more than just the required skill sets; they also want their employees to be passionate about their work. In addition, good agencies go that extra mile to reward and retain their talent. Agencies that are committed to self-expression and are culturally diverse tend to deliver more creative and out-of-the-box solutions.


    They Encourage Change

    All the leading advertising companies take time to delve into how their clients’ operate. Then, they offer new insight about your product, your target audience, and measures you can implement to achieve your goals. One of the key factors for selecting an advertising agency is that it should encourage change.

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    If not for believing in the power of change, the world might never have heard of the now famous “Just Do It” tagline. This campaign, launched in 1988, saw Nike’s market share in North America increase from 18% to 43% in around a decade. Going by this, if you want to take your business to the next level, it is important that you partner with a leading advertising agency that challenges you and encourages change.


    They Measure Success

    Good advertising and marketing agencies do not shy away from measuring success. They rely on various metrics to measure the success of their campaigns along different parameters. In addition, they offer accountability when it comes to result-oriented campaigns. Since there are scores of metrics as well as different ways to interpret them, what it all boils down to in the end is conversions. As a result, the simplest method agencies use to determine if their campaigns are having the desired effect is to look at the increase in conversions after each campaign.


    They Have the Right Work Culture

    Advertising agencies that do not foster creativity or keep their employees’ spirits high are unlikely to deliver great results. Not much good comes from agencies that do not give their employees the freedom to express themselves without restraint. On the other hand, agencies that encourage employees to be proactive, innovative, and collaborative are more likely to run successful campaigns. If you visit any of the top advertising agencies, you will notice a certain sense of exuberance along with a cheerful and positive vibe running through their employees.


    They Adapt in Quick Time

    No matter how big or small, leading advertising agencies are adept at implementing changes quickly and efficiently, either when there is a problem or if things don’t go according to plan. Good agencies ensure that they adapt to changing times, and encourage their team members to keep up with the latest tools, trends, and technologies.


    Factors for selecting an advertising agency

    How to Choose an Advertising Agency?

    It’s common for business owners to ask, “What are the criteria for the selection of an advertising agency?” While the factors that require your attention might vary depending on your business needs, some aspects remain the same. Go through the points that follow to determine how to choose an advertising agency based on your requirements.


    Who Are the Decision-Makers?

    If given an opportunity, just about everyone who is part of your organization might have some insight to offer about how to choose an advertising agency. However, going by the “too many cooks spoil the broth” adage, this may well be a recipe for disaster. So, when it comes to what is the first step in selecting an advertising agency, it’s identifying the decision-makers.


    Ideally, the decision-makers should include department heads or employees who are part of senior management. Then, they get to bring their collective experience to the table along with possibly different expectations.


    Setting Expectations

    If you want the collaboration between your business and the advertising or marketing agency you select to bear fruit, you must set clear expectations at the very onset. All stakeholders need to agree upon the type of agency that the business needs to select. For instance, does your business need an advertising agency with a global presence or would it benefit more by looking at what locally-based small advertising agencies have to offer? You need to set strategic yet realistic expectations while keeping them in line with your organization’s culture.

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    What Services Do You Need?

    An important element of the answer to “How do I choose a creative agency?” requires identifying the services you need. For instance, if you need basic marketing materials such as visiting cards or letterheads, if you need a new logo, or if you’re looking for custom website design, turning to small advertising agencies might serve your purpose well. Their size notwithstanding, some smaller agencies are adept at taking on extensive marketing campaigns that use different mediums.


    Leading advertising companies can offer valuable advice surrounding what type of campaign will benefit your business. Some agencies specialize in online and print advertising, whereas others specialize in television and radio commercials.


    Work With a Budget

    One of the key factors in the selection of an advertising agency is to come up with a budget and then look for alternatives accordingly. It is not uncommon for small advertising agencies to offer more cost-effective solutions when compared to their larger counterparts. The flipside of turning to a big agency and using a limited number of services is to turn to a smaller agency and make use of a more comprehensive plan.


    While pricing is important, try not to play hardball all the time because it might end up being counterproductive. It may, for instance, lead to dilution of services or downgrading of the talent associated with your project. Keep your financial dealings with any agency fair, and consider improving operational efficiency to reduce costs.


    Write a Request for Proposal

    After the deciders determine what services you need and arrive at a budget, it is time to come up with a request for proposal (RFP). This is how businesses looking for advertising agencies commonly share their objectives, specific requirements, and budgets. An RFP needs to be realistic, failing which you might not hear from any of the advertising agencies you contact. For example, you cannot expect to run a prime-time ad on television without having very deep pockets.


    You need to include all relevant information about your business model and your target audience in the RFP. Agencies then make their decisions based on the information you provide. Since advertising has evolved into a multi-faceted realm, the medium you select does not matter provided it’s the best fit for your business. With a well-crafted RFP, you give potential agencies a clear picture of your vision and requirements.


    Top advertising agencies


    Use the RFP Effectively

    Once you hear from agencies, use the information you get in the right manner. Find out why they wish to partner with you. Are they truly passionate about making your business grow, or are they being no more than opportunistic, trying to land every client that comes their way? Don’t hesitate to ask them about their successes and failures. Delve into what they’ve learned from their failures because this gives you insight into how they handle challenges. In addition, find out how they plan to advertise your business.


    Keep Your Shortlist Short

    It does not make much sense to look at what 15, 20, or 25 different agencies have to offer. Once you know how to choose an advertising agency, the shortlist you come up with should be focused and consist of no more than a few names. If you are not sure about which agency to select, consider getting advice from industry insiders or employing the services of a search consultant.


    Look Beyond the Brand

    How an advertising agency brands itself gives its prospective clients insight into its values and history.  However, an agency’s core team plays a more important role in executing assignments. Meet the people who will work on your project and spend enough time with them before making a decision. What you need to look for in the team members is how passionate and dedicated they are to the growth of your business.


    Look Beyond Traditional Options

    Don’t let town, city, or state borders restrict your search. A New York-based ad and marketing agency, for instance, could serve the needs of clients on the West Coast perfectly well.  In this day and age where different means of communication are practically at our fingertips, you can stay in regular touch with the agency you select from just about anywhere.


    Limiting your search to agencies with industry-specific experience might not be the best idea. While selecting an agency with experience in your field might be appropriate, you may risk the effect of groupthink. This is when team members avoid expressing concerns or disagreeing with the general consensus, leading to dysfunctional decision-making. In several cases, an outsider’s view can lend that much-needed new perspective.

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    Size Matters

    Consider matching how big your business is with the size of the agency you select. What this basically means is that small businesses might receive better services from small advertising agencies. This is because it is not uncommon for the bigger players to assign their best talent to clients who rank high on the profitability ladder.


    If you, as a small or mid-sized business owner, choose a smaller agency, you may expect personal attention and access to the top management as well as its best talent. Big businesses and large corporations, on the other hand, might benefit more by working with larger agencies that offer a wider array of advertising and marketing services.


    Learn More About the Agency

    If you plan to work with an agency located in the same city, ask if you can visit, so you may observe its employees and interact with them. This gives you an indication of how it operates, how its employees work with each other, and its overall work culture. Seek samples of comparable previous work as well as two to three references from clients.



    Now that you know what makes good advertising and how to choose an advertising agency, make sure you have the right perspective and keep the big picture in mind. Don’t sign up with an agency based only on how well it brands itself. Take into account its vision because there is a good chance you will have a long-term association.


    Determine if the agency you select is technologically sound and keeps up with changing times. While meeting shortlisted agencies might seem daunting, the process becomes simpler if you go prepared. Once you address all the factors for selecting an advertising agency, finding one that suits your requirements becomes considerably simple.

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