David Ogilvy’s guide for hiring an ad agency

As a business owner you have a zillion things on your plate not to mention advertising. You know that a well planned advertising campaign is crucial for your growth. With multiple marketing channels available like television, social media, email marketing and more, planning an advertising campaign can seem daunting at first. But a smart business owner knows how to prioritize his/her time and when to seek professional help. Advertising is a profession which needs knowledge, skills, experience and proper tools. If you hire an ad agency, you have a team of trained and experienced professionals to help you grow your business exponentially.

So, you know that you have to hire an advertising agency to reach your target audience but don’t know where to start. David Ogilvy is one of the most famous names in the advertising world. Although he wrote his books much before the advent of digital marketing, his advice is still relevant in today’s context. Here are some guidelines from his book – I hate rules; which will help you hire the best ad agency for your business.

#1 Do not delegate this important task

Get personally involved in the process of hiring an agency who is going to represent your brand. As a business owner you understand your product and services better than any employee in your organization. To avoid miscommunication and misaligned expectations, it is worth spending time and effort to select an agency which is going to tell your story to the world.

#2 Prepare a shortlist of agencies

You can start by leafing through various print and digital magazines and selecting the ads you like. Watch advertisements on TV and YouTube channels like M. O. M. (Mad Over Marketing). Make sure you are focusing on advertisements for similar products/services.

Shortlist the commercials you like and find out which agencies created them. One way to do that is to contact the marketing department of those companies. Linkedin and Quora are the other places to pose your queries.

#3 Define your goals

Next step is to analyze at the current stage of your business and identify the goals for your campaign. Is this a brand new product which needs awareness or an established product looking to expand the current market? Are the sales declining and the business needs new strategy? Or you want to take advantage of upcoming holiday season? You should have well defined and measurable goals before you approach an agency. Or in other words, a problem which you want the agency to solve.

#4 Do some background research

From the list of potential agencies find out which ones are working with your competitors and cross them out to avoid conflict of interest. Do a reference check for the remaining ones. Talk to their previous clients and other business owners and get their feedback. Did the agency deliver what they promised? On time? Did they stay within budget? How was the quality of their work?

#5 Final agency selection

All the research you have done so far will help you judge and select the best among various agencies in your list. Meet the creative head and the team of potential agencies. Tell them about your company, and the goals you want to achieve in a short and long term. Ask them leading questions, see if they can provide solutions to your problem and if they have data to support what they claim. Do they have relevant experience? How is the chemistry between you and the potential partner? Do they understand your vision/company goals?

#6 Keep the deal transparent and fair

Once you have finalized the agency which fits your requirement and is within your budget, don’t haggle too much on the commission. If they are asking for 15%, you offer them 16% because that one extra percent will get you the extra attention your campaign/brand needs. You can recover that cost in the form of increased sales as the result of a successful campaign.

#7 Insist on a long term contract

A long term contract will make the agency happy and protect you from future problems in case your competitor wants to lure them away by offering extra money. Set clear expectations and markers to measure progress along the way. Give them ample time to understand your brand and come up with campaign ideas but don’t forget to set time bound targets to be met. Have a clause to exit the contract if those targets are not met. There is nothing worse than getting stuck in a long term contract with an agency which is not performing as promised.

Wishing you good luck with your search, and may the best agency win your business!

Further reading

2 video campaigns that capture PM Narendra Modi’s foreign visits

Building a brand | 10 tips for creating outstanding video ads

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