Things to consider when selecting an advertising agency

Choosing a new agency, be that creative, media, digital, experiential or any one of the many other types of service providers is not something to be taken lightly. The cost and time involved and the impact on the business is significant. Here are a few worthy considerations when selecting agencies.

Strategic resources

If you are looking for business or marketing strategy it is better to select a specialist in this area than to expect the communications provider to supply this.

Look for: a clear distinction of the strategic functions they provide; demonstrable strategic performance, probably as case studies; clear demonstrations of consumer insights that led to strategic insights. 

People resources

Many providers will have a New Business Team for the pitch, possibly never to be seen again. It is important to identify the resources that will be working on your business short and longer term. 
While small agencies can be an advantage with access to the most senior people, as the agency grows or if something happens to key staff they may not have the flexibility to manage your business. Likewise, large multinationals may have higher turnover through career development.

Look for: a loyal, long term staffing base (low churn); dedicated resources or guarantees of time and effort by individual name or specific level of seniority/expertise; depth of resource as well as breadth.


The conundrum is many advertisers want an agency with recent experience in their category without account conflicts with competitors. While it may be ideal to have a provider with experience in your category, it could be that this comes with a package of set thinking.

Look for: expertise in your category or industry (both historical and current) in a range of individuals; a cohesive team that provides both youthful creativity and mature experience. 

Management skills

Agencies are business units in their own right, and managing their own revenue and profit centres requires skill. The experience these management teams bring to the table are critical to your success.

Look for: key personnel who have experience across many industries and categories; managers who have ‘skin in the game’ (hands-on with clients); demonstrably good management skills (strong and consistent agency performance). 

Remuneration structure

Remuneration is most often based on a ‘cost plus’ formula that sees the provider remuneration comprised of a salary + overhead + profit calculation based on the advertiser’s needs and expectations. In some cases, advertisers also enjoy a Performance Based Remuneration (PBR) of Value Based Compensation (VBC) aspect that rewards or penalises the agency on performance.

Look for: a flexible remuneration arrangement based on reasonable salary structures, overhead multiples and base profit margin; the willingness to participate in PBR arrangements; demonstration of putting their profit on the line (case studies); a workable review facility that recognises the ebb and flow of budgets and workloads.


One of the most important parts of the relationship between provider and advertiser department is ‘chemistry’ or ‘fit’. Most relationships that do go long-term are based on mutual respect, understanding and consideration.

Look for: a willingness to listen as well as talk; something more than the camaraderie of the new business pitch; a genuine interest in or passion for your business; an open and honest approach that will engender trust and respect.


How big or important do you want your account to be within the agency? Dominating the agency could mean that you end up funding the infrastructure that others benefit from, while being one of the smaller clients may mean that you may be overlooked at times.

Look for: What are the other clients at the agency? Consider both size and type and where you fit in. How demanding are these other clients? Eg. Retail or high volume clients may demand resources to a greater extent than high media spending clients. What impact would the addition of your business have to the agency size?


While some advertisers are happy to source the best provider in the market, no matter where they are located, most require a local supplier. Considering so much of the business is built on relationships, long distance management needs to be considered.

Look for: Does the agency have other long distance clients? How successfully do they manage these relationships? What are the additional costs both in time and money? What are the alternative offerings? How can technology be used to increase interaction and shorten time issues and lower costs?

What other considerations do you use?  Let me know by leaving a comment here.