06/02/09

Do You Hate Advertising Agencies?

There have been a number of occasions where I’ve met with business owners and managers who state flatly that they don’t like ad agencies and don’t think they can add any value to their marketing efforts. It’s always left me somewhat speechless, because these people have formed strongly held opinions that were shaped by some experience they had. And, there was no amount of persuasion that was going to change their minds.
In reflecting upon why such negative feelings are held by some, I recounted some of the things I’ve seen over the years. Following is a list of five things that can turn a viable client into an anti-ad agency evangelist.
1. SURPRISE BILLS
Nothing will lead to a lack of trust faster than a bill that is not expected. Reasonable clients will expect a bill for work done. But, I have seen bills from some ad agencies that are completely out of line with the work that was performed. Once a business owner feels burned by an ad agency, it is almost impossible to gain their trust again.
2. UNDER SERVICE THE ACCOUNT
This takes a little longer for the client to recognize. But eventually, if they aren’t given enough attention, they will believe that no matter how little they are charged, it is money wasted. Ironically, this problem usually comes from the agency charging too little so it has to take on more clients than it can effectively handle just to make a profit.
3. GET CAUGHT UP IN THEIR OWN CREATIVE IDEAS
I’ve seen wonderful work for a client, expertly executed and complete. And, completely off the mark. I worked with a pizza company whose previous agency’s branding efforts were so completely off the mark that people came in thinking it was a slot car store. Small wonder they’re still gun-shy.
4. OVER PROMISE IN THE BEGINNING
In this highly competitive business, many agencies resort to unrealistic promises of success in order to land the account. Then, of course, the results are never even close. Sometimes, if the agency can create a personal bond fast enough, they can modify client expectations back to something reasonable. But, often they can’t, and the business owner feels burned by the whole experience.
5. CREATIVE ARROGANCE
It isn’t as prevalent as the movies would have us believe. But, it still happens too much. Some young creative guy teams up with some young AE, and suddenly they think they are the only ones with answers that matter. The truth is, business owners often have much to offer and create a much better team when included. Not much will turn off a business owner who has worked his or her tail off to get where they are faster than some arrogant outsider who gets a boost from trying to make his client look inferior.
Thankfully, most agencies are not like this. They are hard working, insightful, talented groups of people who can add lots of horsepower to a businesses success. And, sadly, many who got burned once continue to get burned because they lose a competitive edge by doing it themselves.