Now you’re choosing like a real chooser!

First of all, if you haven’t read PART ONE of this keenly insightful guide, then you need to hang your head in shame. But mostly, you need to read it, because it’s going to help you decide whether to bring agency services in-house. Perhaps you can read it with your head hung in shame and accomplish both. Whatever works.

So let’s just say you decided that running your own agency is not for you. Good job. But now you have to actually hire an agency. What the heck are you gonna do now?


Ad agencies want your business. And some want it more than others. They will listen to your needs, brainstorm ideas, and come up with a pitch to convince you of their awesomeness. They will be super-friendly and nice and just brimming with ideas. But don’t be fooled. None of it really matters.

What does matter is partnership. An ad agency is not a vendor. It’s not at all like the folks you hire to do landscaping or exterminate the ants in the break room. You don’t want someone who just “does” your advertising. You want a partner who is looking to improve their business by improving yours.

If you interview several ad agencies, you’ll see similar “dog and pony” shows. And it will probably make it harder to decide which one to choose. Often, this causes businesses to make a choice base upon price. Don’t do that. Seriously.

After all, it’s not like you’re buying sand or firecrackers or toilet paper. You’re entering a relationship. Would you go out with someone just because they seem like a cheap date? Probably not. Well, maybe. But we’re talking a long-term relationship. Like marriage, or buying a dog. Let’s go with marriage.


Like in a marriage, honesty is key. You need to be open and honest about what your business needs, and what your budget is to start. And you need to demand the same degree of honesty from your prospective agency.

What kind of relationships do they have with other clients? Do they work on a retainer, or are they more often hired on a per-project basis? How long have their clients been with them? How about their staff?

Of course, an ad agency that retains staff and holds onto clients for a number of years is more likely to be a good long-term partner for your business. Especially if they generally work on a retainer basis. This speaks volumes about how other clients see them. Remember, you’re looking for “partner material.”

You should also definitely look into the work they’ve done in the past. It’s obviously better if they can show work that they’ve done for other clients in the same industry as your business, but don’t be too put off if they’ve never worked in your industry at all. As we discussed in PART 1 of this guide, an ad agency with too much experience in a single industry can be a bad thing, especially if you are looking to make your brand stand out.

But you should definitely ask questions about their previous work. Find out about the goals, challenges, and results of the work they show. Don’t be afraid to ask why clients are no longer clients. It’s just like asking what happened to your date’s last boyfriend or girlfriend. You have to figure out if they are a serial killer before you go home with them.


You should probably just assume that they are. After all, these are creative people we are talking about. You should just assume there is mental illness as well.

The good news is that you have most of the power in this relationship. But make no mistake, the ad agency is evaluating your business at the same time. As you move through the proposal/contract phase, you’ll get to interact with them a fair amount, and both of you will begin to recognize whether you are a good fit together.

Remember though, your goal is to choose an ad agency partner, not to tell the future. Make sure any contract you enter is severable, and that you clearly understand what scope of services you are paying for. Also address any additional costs, such as media or production costs, that are not paid directly to the ad agency. Remember. These people are probably insane. Don’t ever let them catch you unaware.


You get what you pay for. Life is like that. You’ll find that a $300,000 Lamborghini is a much nicer car than a $16,000 Kia, or that a $40.00 steak tastes better than a $2.00 hamburger. But perhaps a better analogy would be that you’ll probably get more compliments for an expensive suit than you would for one you pulled off the rack at a discount store.

You should remember that you’re investing in your brand. It may not be the best place to cut corners.

For example, let’s say you finally decided to get some plastic surgery to fix your nose so that children would finally stop pointing at you and laughing. Because it’s plastic surgery, there’s no way it’s covered by insurance, so you’ll have to pony up the cash. Your friend recommends two doctors for you. One is supposedly a top-notch surgeon with hundreds of operations under his belt. He’s also kind of pricey. The other charges half as much for the same surgery, and he runs his practice out of a strip mall. He’s only just recently completed med school, having studied primarily in Guam. Whom do you choose to fix your clown nose and change your personal brand forever?

Obviously, this doesn’t mean that the most expensive option is always the best. Chances are that Guam has some fine medical schools. And your budget is your budget. You can’t always afford the best when your funds are limited. But making a decision based on price alone is just a bad idea.

If you do have budgetary concerns, talk to the agency you want to work with about them. Most are willing to negotiate, and almost every ad agency will do what they can to find a way to work with you. As I said earlier: Agencies want your business.


Hey, we feel for you. Choosing an ad agency is an important decision to make. One that will affect your business in big and major ways. The best advice we can give is “don’t screw it up.”

Find an agency you like. That does great work and is run by people you can get along with. Tell them how much you have to spend. Let them help you make good choices. And if it doesn’t work out, then try again.

Or, you could just call us, and know for a fact that your agency is DAMN GOOD.

1 Comment
  • Scott
    Posted at 14:17h, 28 September Reply

    Great post! It’s a huge decision, and brands should pick carefully.

    Especially startups and small companies. One “badvertising” experience can completely turn this persona off to digital.

    This can completely cripple their ability to scale their business. It can be the difference between getting off the ground and being successful, and not. The effects are profound.

    One of the ways small startups encounter this challenge is by going with whoever is cheapest. For example, a vendor who is doing their seo tells the entrepreneur that they will buy their Facebook ads for another grand. And it just doesn’t go well. That gets the owner into this revolving door situation where marketing service providers are coming through for the wrong reasons.

    It’s certainly not ad fraud, but it is poor work. And as my mentor once said, price is what you pay, value is what you get.

    If you’re a small brand, beware the trap of focusing solely on price when it comes to your digital marketing. Badvertising might be right around the corner.

    Anyway, we blogged about this today if you want to read more:

    Hope that helps with your search!

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