Help! I hate my ad (or marketing) agency!

Agencies try to help marketers with their brand and their pipeline. Marketers are usually the main source of income for agencies. It should be a mutually beneficial partnership. Why then, when you google I hate my ad agency, does it return 27,900,000 results?

Finding a Great Advertising / Marketing Agency

Let’s review an all too common B2B occurrence. Sue is looking to hire an agency to execute a marketing campaign. The goal is to increase brand awareness and drive 50 qualified leads to sales. 5 of those need to turn into real opportunities. She knows her target audience and the general messaging. After researching agencies and hearing many pitches, she narrows her search down the top 3 agencies and assembles a group from her company to make a final decision. The team really likes agency x and they win the business. This agency really seemed to understand Sue’s company, their industry and the goals and marketing in general. Everyone feels good about the decision and Sue now has her marketing team execute. A kickoff meeting happens with the agency team and the project begins.

Two months later, her main point of contact, the account manager, leaves. Throughout the project her Creative Director, Tech Lead and UX person also go. Sue is now re-explaining the project and its goals again and again. The project becomes diluted, difficult to wrangle and a frustrating experience with questionable results.

Why the Disconnect?

  1. Culture. Agencies tout beautiful offices, foosball tables and beer Friday’s as culture. When clients enter their halls, they see a very different place than their corporate environment. It is appealing and seems like a fun place. However, behind the kegs are employees working 10-12 hour days on projects that often spiral out of control. After the glow and the idea of working in advertising begins to fade and employees realize they are mentally drained and burned out, they often leave for smaller shops or in-house work.
  2. Silos. With everyone working 10-12 hours on multiple client projects, it is no surprise that they are laser focused on their area of expertise only. They have no time for anything else. Unfortunately, this creates disconnected teams that don’t understand the overall strategy of a project. For example, it is not the developers job to understand the project, it is the developers job to code what the creative team has done. This is a shame because involving the developer at a strategic level provides insight that is now lost.

A Traditional Model

Below is a traditional collaboration scenario in an agency project.

Typical Agency Organization

Notice most of the communication happens at the client / account / PM level. While creative will talk to UX for the handoff, generally after that UX has moved on to another project and the PM is the main point of contact for the client and the agency teams. Here’s the problem. Account people are generally focused on the relationship–not marketing. PM’s are people getting things done, they also usually don’t have a marketing background. If something goes askew as pieces are moving from one team to another there is no insight / strategic person to question it and ensure the project moves back on track. This often causes the project to go too far in the wrong direction, create an unhappy client and unhappy employees at the agency – causing them to eventually leave because they are frustrated with their work.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are agencies out there, usually started by someone who has worked in an agency, who want something better.

Finding the right agency for your marketing project

If you avoid the flash and jazz hands, businesses and marketers can find an agency that they truly enjoy working with and delivers exceptional results. Here’s a checklist of things to consider when choosing an agency:

  • Find out about their real culture – not the drink cart and foosball table. Really dig into longevity of the staff, who your team will be, how long they’ve been there. Why they do this. Look on LinkedIn and see if you know people that know people that work or have worked there.
  • Access to your team. Can you pick up the phone whenever you want and talk to your designer, writer or anyone else on the team? If you’re being road blocked by a PM and an account person, you may be in for a frustrating experience.
  • Strategic insight. Most agencies produce beautiful examples. Ask about real business impact – not just awards. Ask about how they consulted on the projects to make them better.
  • Level of Your Team. Pitches are not being done by juniors but your creative may be. Find out exactly who will be on your team and what their level of experience is.

In today’s tough business climate, the partner you pick matters more than ever. Make sure you enjoy your agency relationship and that the team you pick can be an extension of your marketing team who delivers real results.

Contact us at Brand Llama to learn how we’re different.