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 August 1, 1999

HOW TO SELECT AN ADVERTISING AGENCY

The No. 1 thing to look for in an advertising agency is creativity. Although what looks good and what does not is subjective, a careful search for anything interesting or compelling within the perspective agency’s portfolio should help even the least creative customer come to a decision.

Ask the agency to bring out past projects that are similar to what you are looking for. Ask what sort of problems they solved for past clients. Did they help to increase customer base? Did they help to create good will with customers? An ad agency should be able to give you results, along with general percentages, of the success of another customer’s direct-mail piece, broadcast fax or trade journal advertisement. They should be able to tell what kind of advertisements worked the best for what a customer wants to accomplish.

Ad agencies don’t generally provide marketing advice. They should, however, do more than design a pretty piece. Good agencies will ask questions about a business’ marketing campaigns such as: What is the market? What is the message? What is unique? What results do you want?

Increase visibility

If your company is new, agencies should be able to help find some of the ways it can be more visible. You can expect those agencies that specialize in direct mail to take the piece from beginning to end, from the drawing table (today the computer) to the customer. They’ll even broker a mailing list. Relationships with printing and mailing companies enable them to guide the ad all the way to the mail box.

When selecting an agency, avoid those that don’t seem able to understand what you really want. Bad communication can be more harmful than simply costing more than you expect. It can ruin the business’ image. To get the most out of the agency you hire, determine whether its designers can improve upon existing marketing pieces.

Know your costs

Prices will be figured by the job or by the hour. For some small projects, fixing wording on a logo, for example, agencies will complete the job after approval of a verbal estimate. For larger projects, more than $1,000, ask for something on paper that describes what will be done and at what price. Developing a small logo can range in price from $250 to $10,000.

Complementary half-hour to full-hour consultations are common in the industry, but customers shouldn’t expect designers to sketch an idea for free. In addition, expect and ask to meet the people who will do the work. When working with large agencies where salespeople find work and bring it to the agency, the customer should make a point of meeting the designers. Ad agencies should produce something that improves the bottom line.

The No. 1 thing to look for in an advertising agency is creativity. Although what looks good and what does not is subjective, a careful search for anything interesting or compelling within the perspective agency’s portfolio should help even the least creative customer come to a decision.

Ask the agency to bring out past projects that are similar to what you are looking for. Ask what sort of problems they solved for past clients. Did they help to increase customer base? Did they help to create good will with customers? An ad agency should be…

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