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Working Effectively with Your Agency

18 Jul, 2018 Dylan Kettering Fluid Culture

Tell Me What You Want, What You Really Really Want

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been frustrated while working with your advertising agency. Keep that hand raised if that frustration was due to your agency not understanding what you wanted.

Hand still up? Then this is the article for you.

Communicating the vision for your business’s brand is a difficult task. Fundamental brand elements are highly emotional and individually intuitive. In order to work well with an advertising agency to bring those emotions and thoughts to life, you need to be able to express those elements.

Keys to Communication Success:

1. Start on the right foot.

Kick off the Business-Agency relationship in person. Invest the time to have your business advertising decision makers meet the agency’s key project members. The purpose of this kick-off meeting is to have the business key personnel express their thoughts about the brand and how they want their consumers to think and feel about it. The key agency personnel will ask their own questions and follow-up questions to help create a mutual understanding. The end result of the meeting will be the agency project personnel being able to clearly articulate your business brand and project goals.

2. Use your words.

There are many tools that help communicate your message; use as many as possible.

  • Verbal/Textual – Explain your ideas using clear and unmistakable language. This skill is called “giving direction.” For example, don’t say “I want this part of my landing page to be interactive.” Instead, say “I want my users to click a button so they can see a visual comparison of their current internet speed and what my firm offers.”
  • Visual – Show examples of what you like and dislike and explain very specifically what elements you like or dislike in any visual piece you show. Don’t say, “I like Apple’s website. Give me something like that.” Instead, say “I like how Apple’s website has a very visual focus on the product. They don’t use more text than they need and they let the slick imagery sell the product for them. Let’s incorporate that style in our website.”
  • Emotional – Demonstrate how interacting with your brand should make people feel. For example, a furniture store owner may bring in fresh-baked cookies to the showroom in order to help customers feel at ease. That same furniture store will want their website design to capture that same sense of comfort.
  • Aural – Give audio samples of what your brand sounds like. If the brand were a person, how does it speak? Is the voice feminine or masculine? Are they funny, serious, seductive or something else entirely? This is especially helpful if you plan on leveraging radio and television ads.

3. Be prepared to be surprised.

Your agency cares about their relationship with you and your business. That’s why they’re going to think outside the box and deliver novel solutions to problems. When you are presented with deliverables that are not what you expected, ask the leading question: “What lead you to design the piece in this way?” The answer to the question will give you insight into how your agency is tackling your problem. This is the added value of hiring an agency – the outside perspective on solving advertising problems. If you’re still not satisfied, ask for a revision and use the previous tools in this list to communicate what you want.

4. Build agency equity.

Working with an agency becomes more efficient over time. Your first few projects will likely have some mis-communication issues and require some time to correct as you and the agency get familiar with each other. Be patient during this time and work to get to know your agency as they work to get to know you. The longer and harder you work on that relationship, the more efficient, effective and fruitful the relationship will become. Eventually, your agency will know your brand just as well or better than you do. But you can only hit that point of maximum effectiveness by building a strong foundation.


View your role in working with an agency like a film director. You have a vision in your head and your agency is the cast and crew which will bring that vision to life. As a director, you work best when you can communicate that vision clearly and collaborate with the cast and crew in its final execution. The end product may not match exactly what was in your head when you started, but it will be something you are proud of and excited to show the world.

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