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What is a full service advertising agency?

17 Sep, 2013 McKell Naegle


Imagine your small business finally succeeding with climbing revenues and a hype around the office. You are hiring a few more people and even considering moving the business out of your basement. You might even do something crazy and hire an advertising agency. You start looking around and finally you see an agency claiming to be the full-service advertising agency, “like electric sex glowing in the window,” as A Christmas Story puts it. What does the term full service-advertising agency even mean? It is one of those vague buzz lines like ROI, PPC and SEO that sales people use to entice new clients. Salesmen throw out the term liberally but fail to explain its true meaning, which leaves potential customers confused and excited at the same time. I mean, c’mon, it does sound pretty exciting. After an intense sales pitch, you decide to sign on with the FSAA, but day after day you discover that they really aren’t as fully serviced and convenient as you were lead to believe.

What is a full service-advertising agency? Generally, such an agency will provide clients with services including and not limited to the following:

  • Design
  • Strategy
  • Branding
  • Advertising
  • Media buying
  • Public relations and promotions
  • Copywriting
  • Audio and video editing and productions
  • Printing advertising and print materials
  • Programming
  • TV and radio commercials
  • Product branding and packaging

In the last few years, a full service-advertising agency now must also offer:

  • Digital marketing
  • Social media
  • SEO
  • PPC
  • Content marketing
  • Mobile marketing

So, when was the last time you went to an ad agency’s service page on their website and saw everything listed above? The correct answer is never. Never! What really is the definition of a full service agency then? From a digital marketing perspective, an agency is indeed a full service digital advertising agency when it’s capable of designing an SEO-friendly website and then driving online traffic to it through PPC, SEO or content marketing.

From my own experience, it seems that advertising agencies can either specialize in traditional marketing or digital marketing, but rarely are they capable of doing both in a prosperous fashion. A decade ago, a successful agency was able to perform traditional marketing tactics for a client and nothing else. Now, it seems that if these older advertising firms don’t offer any digital strategy, they are losing to other companies that will take care of their search marketing or PPC.

Advertising doesn’t mean what it used to. Modern consumers expect an agency to bring them value from every angle possible. Whether is be from a more conventional standpoint of print advertising or the fresh new tactics of the digital world, clients are expecting a bigger return than ever. If your geriatric firm isn’t offering anything digital, then you might as well start putting yourself in the coffin. As annoying as it is to start looking for a younger digital marketing expert, if you want to survive in a digital marketplace, it is necessary to evolve into full-service advertising agency.


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