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The Ultimate Guide to Picking an Advertising Agency

You’ve got a great product and a strong brand. You know the world needs what you have to offer – but you’re unsure how you should spread the word. Choosing the right advertising agency can be the difference between your taking lift off or being less than successful. The choice you make today matters!

advertising agency executives working on a campaign

A great advertising agency will be able to find the audiences that are clamouring to buy your product. They also know the ideal way to reach audiences that matter to you while creating a buzz around your brand, products and services.

They’ll persuade your audience to take action and engage with your message.

Choose the wrong advertising agency, and you’ll be dealing with a lot of headaches just to see your big launch fall short of expectations.

Part of the decision-making process involves having an initial insight into the types of advertising mediums you’ll need to achieve your goals as well as finding an agency with great reviews or case studies.

We’ll cover marketing avenues that different agencies cover including television advertising, radio advertising, digital advertising, print advertising, outdoor advertising and social media marketing through Facebook and Instagram adverts for example.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to choose the right advertising agency to match your objectives, so you can feel confident that you will get the marketing equivalent of a red carpet treatment from day one!

Assess your advertising objectives & needs

Before you can figure out which advertising agency you want to work with, you’ve got to nail down the goals that you’re targeting and determine your marketing objectives.

Being clear about the intent behind your advertising efforts will help you during your discussions with the marketing team.

Some agencies specialize more in one area than another, so you’ll want to have clear direction on what’s most important to you first and foremost.

That being said, you can find full service agencies that offer everything you’ll need, or will be able to put you in touch with people that can help you marketing through a wide variety of mediums.

Which channels are you looking to advertise on?

There are almost limitless ways to reach customers these days. From driving people to your website with organic or paid marketing, using Facebook and Instagram ads and Google ads, to securing ad reads and radio segments, and crafting physical advertisements like digital billboards and other out-of-home (OOH)/outdoor advertising options – the ways to reach customers are nearly endless.

If you’re unsure which audiences will be most receptive to your ads – invest in market research in the early stages of your advertising campaign.

This can ensure that you use your marketing budget wisely in the future, and be a strategic asset for your brand. Otherwise you won’t know you’re throwing your ad budget in the wrong direction until it’s too late.

determining marketing mediums for advertising campaign & strategy

What are your marketing goals?

Now that you know which marketing channels are most likely to reach your audience, consider what the actual goal of your advertising campaign will be. Perhaps you want people to:

  • “Like” and “Share” on social media
  • Download your app
  • Sign up for a newsletter
  • Download a free guide
  • Contact your business
  • Grow their awareness of your brand
  • And, of course, buy your product!

The type of advertising agency you choose will depend a lot on what you’re trying to get people to do. Some agencies specialize in creating one type of behavior over another, from creating high level brand awareness to generating sales leads, or encouraging social media engagement.

team sitting around a table to determine their marketing goals for advertising their brand/product/service

Make sure your goals are SMART

People often set their advertising campaigns up for failure by expecting results that are either impossible to attain or difficult to measure. For example, “I want people to love my product” is a badly created goal. How do you know when you’ve actually achieved it?

Goals are more meaningful when they’re SMART. The SMART formula helps you set goals that actually propel your business forward with tangible results that actually mean something. The SMART formula requires that any goal you set have these five characteristics:

  • Specific – Well-defined, unambiguous
  • Measurable – Quantifiable with data
  • Attainable – Not impossible
  • Reasonable – Realistically achievable
  • Time-based – With a clearly defined start and end date
smart marketing objectives infographic

How to structure your advertising campaign with SMART objectives

Specific: Try keeping in mind these questions to better define the end goal of your marketing strategy.

  • What exactly do I want to achieve?
  • Where?
  • How?
  • When?
  • With whom?
  • Why?

An example goal for a digital marketing campaign is improving your website traffic by 25%.

Measurable: The next step is determine whether you can track the progress and results of your campaign.

Before setting up your campaign you should ask yourself these kinds of questions:

  • How many people will I reach with my campaign?
  • How much will my campaign cost?
  • How will I know when I’ve accomplished my objective?
  • Will the campaigns I’m planning provide the return of investment (ROI) that I’m looking for?

Certain advertising objectives might be easier to track than others. For example, with a digital marketing campaign you would be able to track a variety of metrics to analyse your advertising strategy’s success, whilst with an outdoor advertising campaign, this could be a little trickier.

Attainable: the attainable component of the SMART formula is almost a sanity-check – and during this phase you need to discern objectively whether you can actually achieve the end goal of your marketing campaign(s). Figure out answers to questions like:

  • How can I achieve my goal(s)?
  • How achievable is my goal as compared to other case studies from businesses in my industry niche?

Reasonable/relevant and results orientated:

This component focuses on ensuring that your campaign aligns accurately with your overall marketing objectives as a brand and the goals you need to achieve as an organisation.

Ask yourself:

  • Does my campaign match my business needs?
  • Will my campaign be in sync with my organisation’s other efforts?
  • Is it the right time to push forward with my advertising campaign(s)?
  • Am I the right person to reach this goal, or do I need to find someone else to help me achieve my objectives.
  • Is my campaign applicable to the current socio-economic environment? Or does it clash?

Time bound: Every marketing objective needs a target date or deadline so you’re actively working towards achieving your advertising goals.

Attaching a time-bound element to the delivery of your campaign will ensure that you reach your longer term goals, and not let everyday tasks take over and prevent you from reaching your objectives.

Ask yourself:

  • When do I plan to publish my campaigns?
  • Which milestones can I set along the road toward the publishing date?
  • What can I do today and in the coming few weeks to get me closer towards my marketing goals?

Keep the SMART marketing formula in mind and you’ll be able to define your marketing campaign and objectives much better!

person setting smart marketing objectives to prepare advertising strategy

What is your advertising budget?

The amount of money you can spend on your advertising is going to make a lot of difference in how many people you can reach and what marketing return on investment (ROI) you can expect from your advertising spend.

When developing your advertising budget, make sure to plan for all the expenses related to your advertising plan, such as hiring staff, paying for creative work, development costs for landing pages on your website, and don’t forget to consider your ad spend on Google Ads, Facebook & Instagram Ads, Linkedin Ads and more.

You’ll also want to take into consideration your goals. A short-term goal such as selling a particular item on Facebook during the holidays will probably require less spending than a year-long, multi-channel marketing effort to build brand awareness.

The larger your marketing objective, the more you should plan to spend.

If you’re looking to advertise on a small budget that’s also possible! However, you may need to alter your expectations of what you want to accomplish.

You’ll want to do serious market research to figure out the best way to target potential customers effectively that are most likely to buy so you get the maximum return on every ad dollar you spend. Running small campaigns in different target market niches is also a wise move early on.

person determining their advertising/marketing budget

Types of Advertising Agencies

Now that you know what you want to accomplish, where to find potential customers and what you have to spend, it’s time to choose an advertising agency to bring it all to life.

There are many different types of advertising agencies to choose from. Check through our list below and to find the type of marketing agency that will meet your needs best.

Full service advertising agencies

A full-service advertising agency is a one-stop-shop that does it all – digital advertising, creative, copywriting, ad buying, social media, video, email marketing, direct mail, and more. If you want the convenience of working with a single agency that handles everything for you, a full-service advertising agency is exactly what you need.

Budget Consideration: With a full-service agency, you can expect to pay a full-service price.

Full-service marketing agencies are often the most expensive option to choose when picking an advertising agency. And beware, many agencies that claim to be “full service” might only actually be good at targeting customers using a handful of mediums and could be winging the rest. Always ask for samples, client references and case studies before signing a contract.

full service advertising agency - mediums

Digital advertising agencies

A digital advertising agency specialises in online advertising through a variety of digital platforms. This can include websites, landing pages, email marketing, Facebook and Instagram ads, Google Ads, and influencer marketing. Digital agencies develop strategy, create content and assets, execute campaigns, and track analytics.

One of the most tempting parts of working with a digital advertising agency is that everything is measurable. You’ll be able to track your online results clearly and determine how many people clicked through to your website, opened an email, purchased a product and more. Traditional advertising like newspaper ads and billboards are marketing mediums that are not as measurable.

Budget Consideration: Digital marketing agencies vary in cost, but do expect to pay their fees as well as ad spend for Google, Facebook, and Instagram, hosting fees for any websites and landing pages they build, and subscription costs for CRMs (customer relationship management systems) and analytics services.

digital marketing advertising mediums

Traditional ad agency

A traditional advertising agency gives you all the bells and whistles you’ve seen in the movies – long-term physical campaigns that cover print ads in magazine publications, billboards, TV commercials, direct mail, product placement, coupons, and similar advertising methods.

If you’re looking for a brilliant creative team, a traditional advertising agency might be what you need. Ads that win awards and leave an impression that carries on through generations (Think Wendy’s’ “Where’s the beef?” and NIKE’s “Just Do It”) come out of traditional advertising agencies, which focus on quality of content over the speed and trackability of digital agencies.

Knowing your exact ROI with a traditional marketing agency can be tough as there are limited methods for tracking how people saw your magazine ad, drove past a billboard or noticed and will recall your product through TV commercials.

Budget considerations: Traditional advertising agencies tend to be positioned at the top end of the budget spectrum. Not only because their own fees are higher (premium creative marketing typically carries a premium price point), but because the assets they produce are more expensive to produce. Where you can run a Google Ad for a few bucks a day, a print ad or TV commercial can cost in the tens of thousands to place on networks.

traditional advertising agency marketing mediums

Creative branding agencies

Creative branding agencies, focus on creating a cohesive and instantly recognizable style for brands. These agencies can create incredible logos, define your brand’s color palette, print marketing, letterheads, business cards and billboards, but usually outsource marketing to another company.

Budget consideration: Great creative is worth the price. No other kind of agency will be able to deliver the kind of captivating content that comes out of a creative agency. But remember to leave room in your budget for the outside company that will actually place your ads and develop your marketing strategy in addition to your own creative branding.

creative marketing agency infographic

Experiential agency

An experiential marketing agency creates engaging experiences that allow people to interact and feel the essence of your brand.

More than just selling a product, experiential marketing usually involves getting people involved with your business’ mission or core values and creating a more meaningful connection than simply taste-testing your product, for example. One simple example of experiential marketing is famous athleisure brand Lululemon holding free yoga classes in its stores.

Budget consideration: Experiences don’t have to be expensive. There’s a lot you can do on a small budget. But if you’ve got a larger advertising budget and you’re looking to promote your brand while influencing behaviour – the sky’s the limit!

experiential marketing campaign with led light fixtures

Media buying advertising agencies

Media buying advertising agencies identify and purchase ad space for their clients inside online publications, via magazines, on TV, through influencers and other paid marketing networks.

These agencies will identify the best marketing methods to use and the right content types to reach your audience, and then they will purchase space to run your ads at the right time to achieve maximum exposure within the right target audiences. Though some media buying ad agencies will have a creative team on staff, most do not. You’ll need to show up to their office with your creative marketing components already completed. If you don’t, there’s a chance they can refer you to a creative agency they trust to help you produce the content you need.

Budget consideration: Make room in your ad budget for media buying costs (also known as advertising placements) as well as the fees charged by the media buying agency that will orchestrate the ad purchasing for you.

media buying marketing mediums

What to look for in an advertising agency

Choosing the right advertising agency can make or break your campaign. With so many options out there, and everyone claiming to be the best, it can be tough to separate the great agencies from the pretenders.

Here are some things to look for to determine the quality and service you can expect to receive from advertising agencies.

what to look for when you are looking to hire a marketing agency

Testimonials and client references

Word-of-mouth is still the best way to judge an agency’s track record.

Look for advertising agencies with plenty of great reviews and testimonials from clients. If you can, get referrals from other business owners you trust.

testimonials from clients

Check out previous campaigns for other brands, marketing case studies and awards

Any reputable advertising agency should be eager to show off their good work. Ask for examples of their previous work as well as case studies that showcase their results and illustrate the quality of their work.

Industry awards are also a good indication that the potential company is well-respected and produces work that gets the attention from its peers and admiration of acclaimed panelists.

case study infographic

Other questions to keep in mind during the enquiry phase

  • Who will be working with me during this project? Who are the points of contact for general tasks as well as emergency situations?
  • What kind of reporting or assessments are provided for advertising campaigns?
  • Will I be provided with a detailed estimate of what’s included within projects/retainers/single-multi-layered deliverables?
  • What is your typical turnaround for the type of advertising I want?

Finding a brilliant full-service/traditional advertising agency

EMPIRE is a media buying advertising agency that specializes in helping companies reach audiences in Africa and the Middle East. Not only are we happy to help you with media buying, but we’re also well connected in the advertising industry and would be happy to recommend trustworthy and brilliant advertising agencies that specialize in areas outside our scope of expertise.

marketing strategy meeting

Your International Advertising Partner

Well, there you have it – our ultimate guide to picking an advertising agency!

But don’t go anywhere – just pick us! We’re an agency that does it all, from radio advertising, social media advertising, television marketing, to out-of-home (OOH) advertising and print advertising – we can provide you with the advertising tools and marketing strategies you’ll need to reach the right target market & meet your objectives.

Get in touch with us to find out more about our services and book a chat today!

executives working together to choose a great advertising/marketing agency