Guide

Work with an advertising agency

Choose an advertising agency

In order to get the most out of any advertising agency, it is often best to appoint them for at least a year at a time. You should also allocate a suitable budget that has been identified and costed in your marketing plan. That way, they can develop an overall strategy and take a longer-term approach. This means that it is important to do some research to ensure you find the most suitable agency.

You can research advertising agencies by:

  • visiting agencies’ websites - you can often view their portfolio of clients and get an idea of their particular sector strengths
  • searching business directories
  • asking contacts for recommendations
  • reading advertising trade magazines 
  • using a search service - a service provider that helps businesses select suitable agencies

What to look for

You should pay particular attention to agencies' specialities. Check if they have:

  • experience in your sector
  • expertise in either business-to-business or consumer advertising, if you have a preference for either
  • a track record in the advertising platforms you want to exploit
  • experience in other marketing services, such as PR

Choose the right agency for your business

Once you have some names of agencies you need to choose which will be best for your business. It will help if you are clear about the:

  • target audience you want to address
  • key messages you want to put across
  • key objectives you want to achieve
  • budget you have set

Creating a shortlist

You should ask the agencies to provide you with information about themselves. Tell them what you want and ask them to give you quotes. Consider:

  • Are they the right size for you? Bigger isn't necessarily better.
  • Do they have the right expertise for you?
  • What is their reputation?
  • How do they charge and how do they measure effectiveness? Will they negotiate on fees?
  • Are they a full-service agency, capable of handling work other than traditional advertising?
  • Will you work well together?

You should arrange to meet some of the agencies - ask around three of them to pitch their ideas to you.

The final selection

The pitch is where an agency competes for your business by presenting prepared work. Agencies might charge for this.

When you ask an agency to pitch you should provide it with:

  • a clear brief
  • details of your budget
  • the nature of the contractual arrangement you want

It can be good practice to sign a confidentiality agreement at this stage. See non-disclosure agreements.

Find out if the team pitching to you will be the team that works on your account. Most businesses find that personality is important. You need to get on well with people in the agency you employ if you're looking for a fruitful, long-term relationship.