Blog News

4 reasons to stop and think before you hire an agency

I was supposed to write an advertising blog about the problems with in-house advertising agencies, focusing on that tone-deaf Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad. But that ad debuted in April. It’s now June. So, basically, I missed the timely moment to go full-throated criticism of Pepsi for daring to use non-advertising-agency people to conceive and produce the ad. Plus, other, smarter people already weighed in on the ad’s stupidity.

That said, it’s still a tender existential question. Are “advertising people” the only ones blessed with the ability to produce ads? NO. I don’t think we are. Here are four reasons to think carefully before you hire an ad agency.

1. We don’t always think about your brand. (And we steal ideas.)

If our agency is good, then other companies will want to hire us to think about their brands and problems too. However, developing work for different brands is kind of like “plate spinning”—apologies in advance that you will need to, ironically, watch an ad before you get to watch this great video. It involves a lot of mental gymnastics.

But I believe that makes us better thinkers.

When we think about other things besides your brand, we begin to think like real consumers, who also do not spend the entirety of their days thinking about your brand. We are forced to reduce lofty mission statements and complex product attributes into more consumable and interesting interpretations of your brand’s “reasons a person should care.” And as a result, we can find those narrow moments of time when your brand can become more relevant to a time-strapped consumer and, accordingly, craft a message that engages him or her.

When we do work for other clients (and do inspiring work for them), we identify new places to connect with consumers that may not have been tried before. At The Garrigan Lyman Group, we’ve even transferred what we learned on campaigns designed to engage people who buy things in stores and websites to business campaigns where the goal is to get a business decision maker to read a white paper.

2. We are not the smartest people in the room.

You, or maybe your boss, should be the smartest person in the room about your brand. It’s what you do all day.

What we advertising people do all day, except for snacking, is think about how to get people to pay attention to advertising (see above) and then do something of value to your business. Because we are not the smartest people in the room, but are probably the most paranoid (see below), we subscribe to a bunch of research that will make us smarter about the customers who may want to buy your products.

That means that we may have more, or at least different, research than you have, because we need knowledge and insight for many clients. Plus, we can amortize research costs, so it’s less expensive for us to find insights for your brand than it would be for you to absorb 100 percent of the cost for the same research. Finally, we hire people to fill diverse roles, giving us an extended network of smart people to think about and solve problems.

3. We are paranoid.

We live in fear of a client coming up with a question we can’t answer, so we are always looking to the future to understand which new marketing technologies, ad tactics, social platforms, and psychographic research will change the playing field.

We call it FOMO when we are talking about consumers’ fear of missing out, but it also describes us agencies. We cope by working days on your business, and then spending nights and weekends thinking about what might throw the business for a loop. When it goes in that loop, we get dizzy and scared too.

Regardless of whether you pay us a retainer or project by project, we agencies pretty much think we are going to be fired next month. So we prove our value by showing that our advertising was linked to sales. We implement and obsess about tracking codes that live on your e-commerce sites that attribute traffic to ads. We use unique phone numbers that demonstrate that call centers are busy because of marketing efforts. We meet weekly to determine if the red ad was better than the blue ad. (It usually is.) We harangue media vendors when everything does not run exactly as scheduled. And then we work with them to make it right.

4. We are not related to you. (Well, maybe third cousin twice removed.)

Agencies are typically made up of mutts, people with a mixture of backgrounds, skill sets, perspectives, life experiences, and colleges (or not). And anecdotally, mutts are healthier than purebreds because of the diversity in the gene pool. That’s generally a good thing because people with similar backgrounds tend to think, well, similarly.

While the groupthink that can happen within a homogenized in-house team can’t always be prevented at an agency, it is less likely. Now, would our young Millennial media coordinator have called BS on the Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad and created a reflection moment for the larger team? I’d like to think that we have empowered people across GLG to express their points of view, because we know that we are all adding to this stew known as advertising.

If, after consideration, you’re still adventurous enough to hire an agency, we’d love to be the agency you call.