Your Advertising Agency’s Secret Agenda

What Are You Really Paying Us For?

When you walk into an advertising agency, usually you’re looking for something like a new website, a logo redesign, a digital campaign, some well-written content or help with your social media presence. But if that’s all you walk out with, then you’re just wasting company time and money. So what should you really be paying your agency for? Here’s what a good agency should be doing for you — even though it may not show up as a line item on an invoice.

Making You Uncomfortable

When it comes to mattresses, sweat pants and meeting the in-laws, comfort is exactly what you want. But it has no place in marketing and advertising. And if you find yourself starting to feel comfortable with your brand and your position amongst the competition, then you need to get out of bed, jump into some skinny jeans and hire a new advertising agency immediately. Because every advertising agency’s first job is to make sure you never feel too comfortable. They should always be pushing you into new territory and pitching you ideas that scare you and make you feel a little uneasy. They should be testing your limits and encouraging you to take risks, since they know that the biggest risk of all can be not taking one to begin with.

Playing Devil’s Advocate

There are two sides to every coin. Just like every marketing and advertising decision you make comes with its own set of pros and cons. That’s why your agency should be second guessing you and challenging you on everything you do. When it comes to your brand and, more importantly, your money, you can’t make assumptions or take anything for granted. If your agency isn’t constantly badgering you with “what ifs” and offering different points of view, even if just for the sake of it, then they aren’t doing their due diligence to make sure you’re doing the right thing all the time.

Taking Off the Blinders

When you’re working in-house, where you are your only client, it’s all too easy to get tunnel vision about your brand — causing you to lose objectivity and failing to see the bigger picture. But it’s not your fault. It’s just a side-effect that comes with the job. On the other hand, part of the beauty of working with an advertising agency is that they do have other clients. They’re not caught up in the same small world you are. And they don’t have the same attachment to your brand that you do. So they can help you take off your blinders and see your brand for what it really is, good and bad. They can help you get a more accurate view of the marketplace and your place in it. And that will only allow you to make better, more informed decisions about your marketing and advertising.

Asking “Why” and Saying “No”

On the surface, this seems like a good way for an agency to get fired. As the client, what you say goes — without question. And refusing to do what’s asked is no way to keep collecting paychecks. But agencies are full of rebels and creatives with Oppositional Defiance Disorders. Which, when properly harnessed, can be a really important asset to have on your side — as opposed to having an army of yes men at your beck and call. An agency that isn’t afraid to say “no” or ask “why?” when they hear bad ideas or get bad direction will not only keep you in check, but will also force you to up your game, think things through more meticulously and be ready to respond when you get that answer. A true partnership should be a two-way street. If you’re allowed to say “no” to your agency, then you should be open to hearing it back, too.

At the end of the day, what you pay an advertising agency for is their opinions, their expertise and their gravitas — everything else is just the cherry on top of the sundae.