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What services can you expect an ad agency to provide?

Judy Davis Rounds

Let’s face it. Running a business is hard. If it’s a small business you are probably wearing every hat from chief executive officer to janitor. Medium to large-sized businesses come with larger staffs and more responsibility more time and money. So how and when do you decide you need help with your marketing and advertising dollars?

Time is money. It takes a lot of time and effort to create an effective advertising campaign. Most businesses don’t have the time, creative talent or the expertise to handle advertising campaigns in-house. Do you have the time to dedicate to your marketing plan? Here’s one small example: There are more than 25 radio stations in this market, seven network TV stations plus cable, numerous print publications, hundreds of on-line Web sites, search engine and social media platforms that you can choose from. Each one of these media outlets has a person representing their company. On average I would say I talk with at least 25 to 50 media reps per week about various clients and campaigns I am working on. Do you have the time to meet with all of these individuals?

An advertising agency’s job is to take into consideration every possible media outlet and make a judgment based on empirical evidence, rather than persuasion or friendship. As much as I love all my advertising representatives, they all have one thing in common: it is their job to get your business on their station, or in their publication. An advertising agency’s only agenda is to make sure whichever media outlet is chosen best fits the campaign’s goals. I once had a client tell me he wanted to work with one specific sales person because they had become friends and this rep “had taken care of him.” That’s great work on the salesperson’s behalf but one month before the rep was at a print publication and now was at a radio company. Was the current medium for which this rep worked the best choice for the client? Whether we are selling a specific product, branding a company or gaining awareness for a special event or promotion, it’s an agency’s job to look at all the possible media available and decide which channels are the best fit for your product, company and budget.

An advertising agency can also give you another set of eyes so you can get an outside perspective on the product being promoted. I once worked with a company that told me “people who buy our products are men 18-49 years old.” That’s what they had been told “by corporate” and that’s the demographic their competition was catering to. So, this client targeted all its advertising dollars towards men between the ages of 18-49 years. Taking into consideration the company’s location (a retirement community) and the products they were selling (high-ticket items), I decided to do a little research of my own on who was actually purchasing their products. By going through the past five years of the company’s sales records, I discovered people aged 35-64 were actually the consumers – 75 percent of them. As a result, we adjusted the message and the media outlets to reach this new demographic and sales shot up nearly 80 percent. Although you know your company and product better than anyone else, letting an advertising agency work with you will give you another set of eyes.

Many publications or broadcast stations offer “free” design and production services, but they generally lack the strategic planning that a comprehensive advertising campaign requires. An ad created by one publication cannot usually be used in a competing publication. Often, this also applies to broadcast channels. Advertising agencies spend time researching the best approach to advertising and can create themed campaigns that help enhance a company’s or product’s brand image.

Good advertising agencies will carry those campaigns across several mediums, so that a company can present a constant image, whether advertising is placed on television or radio, in newspapers, magazines, on the internet or billboards. I recently went Macy’s to buy a gift. That morning I had seen a TV commercial for their upcoming sale. The same girl in that commercial was on posters in the store, she was in the newspaper ads, in the direct mail piece I received and on their website. This is a great example of integrated marketing. It’s hard to do all by yourself.

Agencies can also handle projects such as design of everything from business cards to marketing brochures that make sure your company looks its best and always maintains the company brand.

Expertise: Do you know what a CPP is? What about ROI or CTR? DMA OR HUT levels? Share or TSL? Advertising, like many other professions, is full of formulas and data. This data helps us to buy the right media for your campaign. Companies such as Nielsen and Arbitron provide us with data which shows which radio stations people are listening to, how much time they spend listening to a particular station, which TV shows they are watching, which newspapers they are reading and how old they are. By subscribing to various media research, advertising agencies can stay on top of the most recent market data and we use this data to determine how effective your advertising will be.

Additionally, there are other companies like Scarborough that provide psychographic information. Advertising agencies pay for this data so we can make the most informative decisions for our clients. I once worked with a client who would only place his ads on the local news/talk radio station because that was the station he listened to. Let’s face it, if he placed his advertising on this station he would hear his commercial. He might as well have flushed those dollars down the toilet because the particular campaign we were working on was targeting young people who were about to get engaged. News/talk radio stations tend to cater to adults 35-plus. Not exactly newlyweds. He was not taking into consideration the fact that although this station was very highly rated overall, it did not cater to the demographic he was trying to reach for the particular campaign we were working on.

If you are handling your own advertising, how do you know that the ads ran as scheduled, that the ratings the station promised were actually delivered, or that the online impressions that you purchased were reached? An advertising agency not only provides you with campaign results and analysis but also monitors the campaign throughout its flight. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to call a radio or TV station to tell them they were not airing the correct commercial. Advertising agencies can negotiate “makegoods,” commercials that run at no charge because the station/publication didn’t deliver what it promised. I once ran a print ad for a client in a major national magazine. Somehow when they printed the magazine the color dropped out of the page that our ad was on. I was able to get another ad to run at no charge (over a $10,000 value) and get a banner ad on their website for a month. If you don’t have the time to monitor on-air and online schedules, confirm print run dates and analyze reports, you may consider hiring a professional agency.

In addition to bringing years of experience and knowledge of the advertising industry, many agencies bring another key element to the equation: relationships. Long-term relationships can help agencies to secure added-value promotions, secure bonus placements, get articles written or have their clients be used as “experts” when a reporter is writing an article. Because of my relationship with editors and various reporters in our area, I have had the opportunity to get many of my clients highlighted in articles that, if done on their own, would never have happened.

All advertising agencies take their work very seriously. Bottom line is that our work is your success. If we don’t accomplish our goals, whether it’s increasing likes on your Facebook page, or increasing revenue with a given campaign, we can get fired. That’s the last thing we want so we do everything in our power to make sure the advertising campaign we create for you not only works but accomplishes every goal we set forth in the beginning.

Judy Davis Rounds is president of Davis Rounds Advertising and Marketing. Contact her at http://www.davisroundsadvertising.com.