Find the Right Creative Agencies: 3 Fresh Ways

August 14, 2018 | Lorraine Stewart

Start Now for 2019 Success!

How to find the right creative advertising agency remains an elusive challenge for companies today. Agencies line up by the hundreds, offering similar services at similar pricing with little known differentiation.

Marketers know a lot rests on the selection of the talent to get the job done, and that outsourcing can accelerate their plan of action. But top advertisers ask: Where are the proof points to off-set the risk of the financial investment or change?

With 2019 budgeting underway, marketing leaders can employ new methods for vetting the creative agencies that belong on their roster. Doing this soon will ensure they have the bench strength they need for the modern direct-to-consumer-marketing tasks they face in the year ahead.

Yesterday’s News

For years, multiple industry databases have made available agency size, vertical industry experience and geographic offices with easy, popular filters. But this old model approach will arbitrarily rule out what may be the most relevant creative and digitally-savvy talent available for hire!

Advertisers that seek fresh and fast solutions to problems, new ideas and innovation skill sets are not always confident how to factor creative ability into the equation. Industry awards mean little to them (less than agencies think). Results achieved for other clients should be a calling card, but clients know this information is often packaged in too-tidy case histories. Actual results and insights are likely to be proprietary. After all, who would want their own secret sauce shared with others this way?

And digital capability assessment? Even tougher to assess. The “black box” of agency skills clients seek
for building high quality user interfaces, mobile aps, or versatile coding across platforms uses a modern language that most clients don’t speak.

To clients, it feels like there are a lot of promises made from agencies who come courting. The words of the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s classic Through the Looking Glass echo as she tells Alice that “The rule is jam tomorrow and jam yesterday, but never jam today.”

Fresh Berries

Creativity remains the key driver of why companies need to hire outside agencies to differentiate their brands. Clients value agency partners for their ability to transcend traditional thinking and category rules, to interpret information in the context of cultural relevance; to produce meaningful news ways of communicating, in a distinct commercial art form.

How to Find the Right Agency

We saw this hold true once again in this year’s work which included concurrent agency reviews for the multiple brands in the Signet Jewelers portfolio, the category leading jewelry retailer.

Creative thinking and ability can be made familial to clients from a more sophisticated and nuanced sourcing approach than what a database list returns.

Here are three juicy strategies to evaluate the relevance of a prospect’s skills and find the right creative agencies.

  1. Visual Design Sensibilities: Agencies that have amplified the fundamental principles of design to refine their craft are successful in demonstrating the power of a creative idea to crisply communicate a brand strategy, preferably in a heartbeat. The convergence of a brand’s language and imagery into iconic creative work is an essential agency skill companies seek.
    Marketers need to literally arrest the attention of their fickle customers who consume volumes of media content. It’s no small undertaking. The production of brand creative imagery is the manifestation of an agency’s outstanding strategy skills that underpin the work. Hard to articulate, visualization of the brand strategy is the marketer’s holy grail. Clients “know it when they see it”.
  2. Tone &Target: Sourcing agencies that have produced creative campaign work for others with a particular tone and manner is a productive way to “start with the end in mind”. The topic of advertising tone and manner is often under-appreciated, relegated to a line item description in a creative brief. Tonality is the talisman of creativity. Identifying the most desirable like-kind tone of advertising work, regardless of industry, reveals a breadcrumb trail to discover the actual creators and producers of the work.
    -Many clients seek fresh ways to engage millennials who represent their next gen of customers. Their target markets are diverse populations with blended families, mobile lifestyles and distinct core values. If a potential agency partner can nail the authentic tone of messaging that best resonates with a client’s given target market, hiring that creative agency becomes less of a random act of faith. The resulting creative campaign tenets will endure for a period of time.
  3. Gravitas: Why does the CEO of company care about the selection of an ad agency? Because advertising messaging produced by an agency across any media platform is a badge. It’s a highly visible and symbolic representation of how the business goes to market. It’s a reflection of the brand core values and ethos. It functions like an internal rallying cry for employees to live up to a brand promise.

To find the right creative agencies who appreciate the core values orientation to advertising work product and have successfully applied this view for other clients is an evaluative exercise with some chops. This level of conversation creates confidence in the C-Suite that the same sensibilities demonstrated by a prospective agency leadership team will be leveraged for them. The new client-agency team will be directed by a shared view of the brand purpose. Creative work aligns and shows it.

The advertising industry is ripe for today’s jam. Ready to implement these fresh strategies? Start now so your team can hit the ground running and maximize 2019 success.