If you spend significant amounts on advertising, an advertising agency can help you ensure your advertising budget is being spent effectively. As well as helping create advertisements, an agency can help with market research, planning your advertising campaign and placing your ads in the right media.
It's probably worth considering using an advertising agency if your advertising budget is over £10,000. If you have a lower budget, or only want help with creating an ad, you might want to use a freelance copywriter instead.
The best way to find an advertising agency can be through your trade association or by asking business contacts for recommendations. They may be able to give you the names of agencies with experience of working for your kind of business. You could also contact the advertising departments of trade publications for your industry and ask which agencies they regularly deal with.
If you want to do your own research, there is plenty of information online about advertising agencies. Business directories can be a good way of finding local agencies or copywriters. It's worth looking at the agency's own website as well to get an idea of the kind of work they do and the approach they take.
More in-depth information on advertising agencies is available from the Marketing Manager's Yearbook, trade associations such as the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising and from advertising trade publications such as Campaign magazine.
Ideally, you want an agency that has experience in your business sector. The agency should at least have experience advertising to your kind of customers, whether you sell to businesses or to individual consumers.
The size of agency you choose will depend on your budget. Big does not have to mean best, however — businesses with relatively small advertising budgets often find they get a better service from a small local agency or a freelance copywriter who really values their business.
There can be advantages to working with an advertising agency that also offers other services, such as direct marketing or PR. They may be able to suggest a better way to achieve your objectives, or back up an advertising campaign with other kinds of promotion.
If you have a choice of several advertising agencies, you need to decide which one suits you best. Even if you already have one preferred agency, you can use the same process to help yourself focus on what you are looking for and make sure that the advertising agency understands your needs. Chemistry helps too.
Start by drawing up a brief, explaining what you are trying to achieve. The brief should include background information on your business and the types of customers you are trying to reach. The more specific you can be about your objectives, the better.
Circulate the brief to the advertising agencies on your shortlist, and ask them to come back to you with a proposal including recommendations for where you should advertise and how much you should spend. Make sure you know how much they will charge. Agency fees typically include an hourly rate for creative work and a commission on the value of any advertising they buy. Check that the agency will pass on media-buying discounts to you.
You will probably want to meet the most promising agencies to get a feel for who they are, ideally visiting their premises. It can help to ask agencies to show you samples of their past work and explain how they met other clients' requirements. You should not expect an agency to prepare new ideas for you unless you are a substantial client. Even then, the agency may ask you to pay for the work involved or will charge higher fees than you usually pay to cover the costs of devising a new campaign, for example.
Make your decision based on how effective you think each agency would be at helping you achieve your goals - and make sure your agency loves and understands your products.
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