How to Select an Advertising Agency

How to Select an Advertising Agency


Below are tips on what to look for when choosing an advertising agency.


Most everyone is familiar with checklists. We use them for all aspects of our lives. The best use of checklists is to be sure we don’t leave an important task undone that could end up costing us a lot of money. In the advertising arena, here are several items on a checklist that could save you a lot of frustration as well as thousands of dollars in wasted ads and lost customers. There are many other attributes to consider, but these are a few to get you started.

  • Advertising Agency Solvency
  • Ratings Subscriptions
  • Creative Services

Advertising Agency Solvency

Ad agencies are like other businesses. They have to generate a profit to stay in business. But before you engage any agency, you should first either run a credit check (such as a Dun & Bradstreet report) or ask to speak with the principals of their clients to be sure bills are being paid on a timely basis. Agencies that are in a lot of debt will often times slow-pay media vendors and sometimes end up defaulting on payments owed. A default could make you pay twice, once for the amount that you have already paid the agency and again when the media vendor, who didn’t get paid by the agency, comes after you for payment.

We recently took over a situation where an agency defaulted, and the client was left with unpaid bills. Default could force you to be put on a cash-in-advance basis which can have a negative impact on your cash flow in the near term. Much like you can’t buy a house without going through a credit check, you should put the agency through a credit check as well.

Ratings Subscriptions

Any agency who is representing you should be spending tens of thousands of dollars in annual subscriptions on ratings data and processing. Vendors such as Nielsen, Eastlan, comScore (Rentrak), Triton Digital, Scarborough, and FreeWheel/STRATA are leaders in the ratings industry with services to help media buyers evaluate all offerings to help grow your business. However, an advertising agency that relies only on media vendors to provide ratings information as the basis for making buy recommendations is running on the cheap, and you will always get a worse deal because your agency is not in control of the data.

Since media outlets will obviously only show their strong points, reliance on ratings from vendors is detrimental to you when not fact-checked independently. Always insist that the advertising agency is subscribing to media ratings services, and make them prove it. If the agency will not invest in you by spending their money to help you make money, scratch them off the list for consideration.

Creative Services

All of the marketing money in the world cannot overcome a poor message. If your message does not pass the BROCA test, you are assured of failure. In today’s environment, there are more distractions than ever, all competing for the attention of the reader, listener, or viewer. If your message cannot break through the noise and clutter of competing email, radio, television, Facebook, Instagram, Pandora, Spotify, podcasting, and all other media, it’s much like a jet speeding down the runway spending a lot of money on gas but never lifting off the ground.

Broca Brain Map

Click here for an example of a commercial that passes the BROCA test.

Industry Expertise

Most people would not hire someone at their company who did not have previous experience in the field of work for which there is an opening. However, sometimes the best ideas come from those who can take a fresh look at how your business fits in your industry with no preconceived ideas. What you need most is brand differentiation, and while no agency will ever know as much about your industry as you do, the ability to promote unique selling propositions and competitor differentiation is important to building market share. And ask to see measurable success with a client in whose industry the agency had no previous experience.