Let’s begin with the absolute truth — no two marketing agencies are alike, and finding the right match for your brand is tougher than Tinder. If you’ve been on an agency search before, some questions might have crossed your mind: why hire an agency at all? Is it going to be worth the investment? Perhaps my team can do it all already – or we could always hire in-house? Can I trust an agency to deliver the same (or better) results as if we did it ourselves? And, importantly, how do we judge whether the partnership has been successful?
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Advertising is a multifaceted industry and while the initial skepticism is natural, a good agency fit can propel your brand on a goal-oriented, expert-backed, and ROI-driven journey — saving you time and money while hitting the results you’re looking for. This piece begins by scoping the landscape and then picks on the brains (and experience) of our experts at DCMN, to bring you a comprehensive overview of how an agency can help.
Types of marketing and advertising agencies
Depending on your campaign and which audiences you’re targeting, there are different types of agencies to pick from. These include:
Creative boutiques are agencies that offer creative design services, whether it’s for a big rebrand project or simply designing ads. These agencies are helpful when a company has the resources and tools to monitor results in-house but lacks the resources to design or write copy for their campaigns.
Digital ad agency
Focusing on online, rather than print or TV? Here’s where digital agencies come in. These agencies offer an array of services for all things digital, including SEO & SEA, social media management, influencer marketing, content marketing, and more. Your core brand and campaign usually remain the same — digital ad agencies only change the medium of where the messaging goes out.
Traditional agencies are experts in offline media like print, TV, radio, cinema and OOH (Out of Home) advertising. They are best suited for reaching a local target audience — for instance, a direct mail campaign to promote a new salon, or a radio spot about a restaurant offer.
Media buying agencies
A strong message is good, but if it’s not placed well — it won’t reach anybody. Media buying agencies work with clients to place their creative ad materials in the most optimal channels — whether it’s print, digital or OOH! These agencies have tie-ups with networks and can negotiate the best deals and time frames for advertising your brand.
A full-service agency, as the name implies, performs multiple functions for the client — and typically supports a brand across different stages of a campaign. From ideating, planning and management to measuring the impact of a campaign, these agencies do it all. Full-service agencies also offer a wide array of services in both digital and traditional marketing and advertising aspects of a campaign. These services can include: strategic planning, business insights, brand solutions, creative production (photo and video), media planning & buying, social media marketing, lead generation, and tracking the impact of your campaigns.
Why hire a marketing agency? Our experts weigh in
Our marketers at DCMN are backed with years of experience, working both agency and client-side. So we asked four of them, across different markets and functions, one single question: Why should brands hire a marketing agency? Here’s what they had to say:
Bindu Balkrishnan, Country Head, DCMN India
With over 15 years of experience working for brands across Europe and India, Bindu says there are three core functions an agency can take over: it can be your growth partner, ensure a smooth marketing journey, and give you the best bang for your buck. Here’s how:
An agency will be your growth partner
An agency acts as your sounding board when you take off on your growth journey. It’s important to work with a trusted team who can advise you at every step of your growth, offer an unbiased opinion and occasionally challenge your ideas. People working with you at an agency have a deep understanding of the landscape, having engineered many success stories for multiple brands across industries. This combined experience is one of the biggest benefits, says Bindu: “When you hire a marketing agency, you don’t work with just one person — there is an entire team with very specialist skills across verticals to help you succeed.”
Marketing, without the stress!
When a brand tries to handle all marketing activities in-house, it can quickly get stressful. Forget trying to balance daily business, research, sales numbers, PR and advertising – something usually has to give. Bindu adds, “An agency specialising in advertising backed with the right strategy, ideas, and media partners can take on the heavy lifting, and make the whole experience smooth and seamless.” By taking the weight off your shoulders, you can focus on what matters the most: strategies to drive growth for your brand.
An agency helps you get the best ROI
Since agencies work with multiple brands, they have a good grasp of the best media rates across TV, print, OOH, digital, etc. This is one of the biggest advantages of working with an agency, says Bindu: with this insider knowledge, they can negotiate on your behalf to get you the best rates – making sure you get the most out of your marketing dollar and the best ROI.
Henning Henke, Head of DCMN Munich
Having led campaigns for leading German companies like Home24, Auxmoney, PosterXXL and Freeletics, Henning believes an agency acts as a guiding light for your brand’s next campaign. Here’s how agencies can step up the game:
An agency helps you stay informed and up-to-date
Henning acknowledges that as a client, it’s hard to keep track of new trends and updates in an industry that is constantly evolving (digital, we’re talking about you!). From small changes like how a certain TV slot can boost your ROI, to bigger changes like rules and regulations of advertising in specific locations, an agency is expected to stay updated with these updates and keep their clients informed. An agency often has teams of people with similar expertise who keep each other informed, share their learnings etc. which may be tricky for an in-house team.
Hiring an agency allows you to experiment
Agencies do more than just book your campaign or produce that catchy TVC. Experts from agencies also bring in their experience from current and past campaigns, to safeguard your future strategies. This helps especially if you’re trying out a new channel, as agencies act as a safety net and allow you to experiment with newer formats or channels, without having to hire in-house.
(Some) agencies are a one-stop shop
If you opt for a full-service agency, you can benefit from the different expertise and experiences they are equipped to offer, all under one roof. For instance, the DCMN team cane help you ideate a campaign but also produce it and advise you about the best placements for your ad. Henning mentions that this is also “a huge time-saver, as teams can work together to manage a campaign end-to-end – without you having to brief several different agencies.”
Ulrike Tusk, Global Expert Offline Marketing, DCMN
Having worked for over 17 years on both client and agency side, Ulrike is a true champion of offline media. Before DCMN, she helped grow brands like Babbel and Goodgame Studios. For Ulrike, access to local knowledge and unmatched negotiating power are the two biggest benefits of working with an agency:
Local or global: we’ve got you covered
If your company is looking to expand into a new market, an agency is equipped to help with the nitty-gritty of local markets too. Agencies work with a broad variety of industries, markets, and campaigns, and this knowledge can be adapted to your local campaigns – saving you the time and effort of testing everything from scratch.
Agencies help make sense of data and tracking
Hiring a marketing agency often gives you access to tools and platforms that aren’t available to you, or are too expensive for your business to purchase outright. These tools can help you better understand your data and the impact of your campaigns. Citing DCMN as an example, Ulrike adds, “When it comes to running a TV campaign, we not only offer the creatives, planning, and buying, but also we can measure the impact of the campaign with our in-house software DC Analytics. Our developers are constantly improving this tool, over the years it has helped analyse campaigns for over 200 clients! And while not impossible, doing this in-house can get expensive.”
Spending your budget wisely
Hiring an agency can save you costs. Yes, you read that right. Imagine if you had to hire employees to manage all the different aspects of your marketing strategy – this would mean navigating and hiring production teams, media buyers, publishers, business intelligence teams to make sense of your data – the list goes on. If these costs can’t be managed internally, due to the size of the company or budget constraints, outsourcing these tasks to an agency can ease up the process.
Agencies have negotiation power
As an individual company, you have just one budget to negotiate, but an agency manages several budgets together – meaning they can negotiate better conditions for you.
Hillevi Lausten, Chief Operating Officer at DCMN
With over a decade of experience working for both agency and client side, Hillevi recommends that the first step of an agency search is to reflect on how an agency creates value for your brand. Depending on this knowledge, you can map out the next steps for a successful collaboration:
Define your objectives and communicate
Hillevi advises: “It’s important to understand what one wants from an agency. Are you just trying to solve a single problem? Or do you want a partner that helps you grow your business beyond the limits you may operate in?” These boundaries could, for example, revolve around not having enough people with the right knowledge in your team, or a lack of international experience.
Test, learn and scale
Thinking back to her client-side days, Hillevi says: “The first time we hired an agency was because we wanted to test if TV was the right channel for us. But through the process, I learned so much more!” Through this experience, Hillevi learned that having a long-term partner works better than having a one-off project with an agency: “We were not only searching for an agency that fulfills a specific role but an agency that understood our needs, our business and that was willing to go the extra mile together.”
And the learning curve worked both ways – her team could not only get insights about growing their business but also learned something new, directly from experts in the field. They could help the brand test, learn and scale by finding the right agency and resources. Hillevi continues: “We didn’t have to burden our budget with new hires but instead invest in an agency that can not only provide their expertise but also expose us to any blind spots that we, as a client, could’ve easily missed.”
The right time to hire a marketing agency
Convinced you’re ready to hire an external marketing or media agency? Let’s move on to identifying some objectives from this partnership. We get it, engaging an agency requires investing your time, money,and trust in the future of your brand. A good agency partner can transform your brand and the wrong one can mean a waste of all these efforts. So, let’s evaluate when you might need an agency:
- Your team is already equipped with different tasks related to building the business and your in-house marketing employees can’t do it all.
- You’ve never worked with an agency before, and are not quite sure where to start.
- You’re looking to explore new channels and don’t have prior experience communicating with them.
- Your brand is looking to generate leads, increase brand awareness, or seeking explosive growth, and you know an agency can help you achieve these goals.
- You need an unbiased yet informed perspective to elevate your brand’s marketing strategy.
But before you say yes…
How do you make sure you’ve chosen the right partner? Before you sign on the dotted line, here is a checklist to consider:
- Have a clear understanding of your goals and expectations before you start the retainer.
- Decide if you’re looking for a niche or full-service approach, and depending on your goals, pick the type of agency that’s best suited for you.
- Review their list of campaigns, any case studies, and client profiles. You should also check if the agency has expertise in managing your specific goals – for example if you’re looking to boost your SEO, a content marketing or digital agency would be a good match.
- During the pitching process, ensure the pitch and strategy are cohesive and in line with your company’s vision.
- See what channels they excel in and whether these are relevant to your audience: it wouldn’t make sense to go to an agency with radio and podcasting expertise when your company is focused on social media.
- Ask yourself if they are a good listener – and if they are fully aware of your expectations and goals. If the answer is no, your agency hunt isn’t over yet.
- Lastly, ensure they are upfront and honest: an agency is not your yes-man, and should bring in a critical perspective that is unbiased and helps your brand perform better.
Looking to hire a marketing agency? Let’s chat! Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.