How To Get The Most
Out Of Your Advertising Agency.

It's a shame, really, that there are so many ad agencies so quick to accept the terms of any new client just to build up the billings. Why do they do it? Because when one hand squeezes the other too hard, it cuts off circulation to the brain and stops all other activity. In advertising, the"circulation" is everything. It's the creativity, the fluidity of response to clients' requests, it's the right to experiment, it's the right to make money and to have fun doing it. It's the essence of the advertising business: communication and caring about each other.

If ad agencies were selling, say, paper clips, who would care if they're happy or unhappy? But what we are selling is a basic image, a first impression, and reputation for a business. For those things, everyone should be very concerned about the state of mind of those responsible for the work. Mistakes in imaging and creative blunders can be fatal. Or, at their best, they can just cost lots and lots of money to repair, and lost years of opportunity while you're doing it.

It's not really the client's duty to keep the agency happy. But the client should be concerned. Because by being concerned, you, the client, will take more seriously your role in maintaining a quality relationship with the agency. But, that's just the beginning.

Hard work is needed in the initial phases. Make no mistake, this period is the most difficult and time consuming of all. The planning and the serious attempt to reveal and discuss all the objectives of the marketing plan. There has to be a meeting of the minds concerning all of the expectations and desired effects, based on the budget to be expended. A good advertising agency can tell you whether you're being realistic or not, financially, creatively, and in your response anticipation. A bad one will just keep nodding its head. A good client will have evaluated its prospects for accomplishment prior to the meeting and have a reasonable and tempered spectrum of results in mind; a bad client will come to the meeting to get anything and everything it can.

The idea of "adversariness" is one that should never enter into things between an advertising agency and a client. Both client and agency have two very important things in common: promoting the client and making a fair profit.

 How do you get the most out of your ad agency?

It's easy: give them clear-cut instructions, give them the budget to accomplish what you need AND for them to make a fair profit, and then let them do it.

Remember every meeting costs time and money that might have been spent for message exposure, and every revision and remake costs money plus it can evoke the disinvigoration of the agency's creative staff. That, you want to avoid at all costs. Clients never see what endless revisions and picking over the copy and design does back at the agency. If they did, they would never do it again.

It may be hard to get used to the fact, but most advertising agency creative types are not "meeting- people," most are not "telephone-people," and they are not compromising salespeople, either. They are sensitive, mercurial, and opinionated individuals who are either going to be fired up and excited about doing business with you, or they are going to hate you and charge you extra for it. Agency creative people are hot or cold.

If you're the sort of company that has meetings ad infinitum and memos and "covering" procedures galore, let that be your millstone. Don't bring that mentality to the agency/client relationship.

Decisiveness. Creativity. Planning.

Informed decisiveness is your assignment. Creativity is ours. Planning we do together.

Do your assignment with the applied skill and the same professionalism you expect from the agency regarding creativity, and your relationship will blossom and so will your sales. Planning is the road map: if the agency and the client know exactly where they are going and when, everything is easier, more productive, more efficient and, in the final analysis, more effective.

A few other notes:

Don't nitpick. It really doesn't matter.

Avoid all negative campaigns.

Don't worry about long body copy; the people who read it will be your best customers. Just make sure it's well written, entertaining, and informative.

Remember photographs are better than illustrations in general; they lend believability and credibility to the statement. Always caption a photo.

Testimonials are great. Sow first, then reap.

Remember the copy that works must work for your customers, not for you. Chances are your demographics and those of your customers are so different that if you really LOVE the ad, it may have a completely different effect on your customers.

Remember ads don't run on illustration board with high quality repro paper with super black and white reproduction. It's a good idea to see what it looks like in the medium. Ask for that in the presentations, including online presentations.

NEVER READ RADIO COPY, only listen. The same is true of television copy. NEVER read it. Insist.

Be consistent in your formats. Don't vary. Consistency counts.

Avoid reverse type. National averages state that reverse copy is read by one third fewer people.This idea of reversing things grew out of the "please-the-client" syndrome, because when the client went looking, it "jumped" out at him or her. Please the end- customer always, and remember that sometimes your opinion doesn't matter.

Always use people rather than objects in your promotions. People are always the key in communications. Also, for most of us nothing is more interesting than other people. Objects are less interesting. Why not go for the best?

Engage the customer's imagination. Make him laugh. Make him think. He'll remember you far, far longer if you do those two things (or even just one of them).

Campaigns work harder. Always use campaigns. Never just an ad, just a commercial, just a brochure, just an annual report. Never.

In advertising, the cost of your investment is always a valid topic of discussion and never a reason to get angry. Firing an advertising agency because they are too expensive is definitely cutting off your nose to spite your face. Honesty, openness and understanding are always the best response.
Insist on production estimates for everything, in writing. If you don't, it will be implicitly assumed that money is no object. You will have little recourse if the price is too high. Process estimates quickly with authorization or rejection. There is nothing more frustrating than creating and concepting a job, then getting prices and vendors all lined up, only to wait until the client gets around to it. If it's important enough to engage your agency's resources, it's important enough for you to turn the estimates and authorizations around promptly.

Act as if everything your agency does for you is the most important thing on your agenda. It's not always going to be true, but what they do may ultimately makes a huge difference for you.

Always tell the truth in your advertising. Don't exaggerate, or employ hyperbole. If your product can't stand the truth, then invest your marketing money in research and development until it does. Advertising cannot make a bad product better. And, after all, you're going to need repeat customers, no matter who you are.

Remember to be inclusive, not exclusive, in your marketing. Even upscale marketing should be as inclusive as possible: all genders, all persuasions, races, creeds, colors, anything else you can think of. If you are inclusive, you can sell a lot of things to a lot of people; if you are exclusive, you may regret it. "Inclusive" and "exclusive" are relative terms within your true market or markets.

Never stereotype anything or anybody. It's boring and lazy, and bad form in the extreme.

In humor, there are only two kinds: the kind that amuses and the kind that abuses. You know which one to use. Hopefully, you will know which one is which.

Always expect excellence from your agency. It will encourage them. It will increase their esteem for you. And if you don't get it, and they don't change, fire them. But be sure that it was their failure and not yours.

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