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    24 Replies Latest reply on Sep 3, 2009 12:00 PM by ulysses

    How do I get an advertising agency off the ground?

    Iwrite Pioneer

      Okay, here's my situation: I've been working in advertisng for most of my adult life, working on a variety of clients and accounts. I'm good at what I do, and more importantly, I love what I do.

      I've done it all (print, tv, radio, direct mail, direct response, outodor and interactive). I have spent my career learning the advertisng industry, creating campaigns that deliver and breakthrough, but I am miserable working for others. I want a chance to do it my way. My freelance business has been pretty good, but working contract or project basis is not what I want to do. I want to help a company to grow. I want to establish the client/agency relationship that I have witnessed and have been a part of my entire career. But I can't get passed the freelance stage. I am not expecting clients to beat my door down. I know I have a lot of hard work ahead for me. I just want to hear what you have to say about advertising, hiring an agency and where advertising fits in your business' growth and development.

      I'm trying to understand what it is clients are looking for in an agency, and how to convey that in a successful manner. I have been reading the posts in this forum and a lot of folks have marketing questions but not a relationship with an agency to address your issues. Why? What is it about working with an advertisng agency that keeps you fromding it? What are your concerns about selecting an advertising agency?

      I am not trying to drum up business. I am trying to get information. This is a huge step for me and I want to make sure I have the best chance of success. In operating your business, what is it that has kept you from hiring an agency?

      Thank you in advance.
        • Re: How do I get an advertising agency off the ground?
          LUCKIEST Guide
          Iwrite, Happy 2008. On of the first posts for the new year. You ask an intriguing question.
          " In operating your business, what is it that has kept you from hiring an agency '?
          Turning your question around and asking why you hired an agency.
          The answer is the same as why one picks an Accountant, Lawyer and maybe even your significant other.
          Sometimes it is luck, sometimes being in the right place at the right time or sometimes presentation.
          Having worked for a advertising agency should help you start. Take a step back, think outside the box and
          start a company and build those relationships that will help you succeed.
          A good Business and Marketing Plan will also help.
          Good luck in 08, LUCKIEST
            • Re: How do I get an advertising agency off the ground?
              Iwrite Pioneer

              Thank you. I do need to step back and approach this differently. I asked the question for that very reason - a lot of times people assume they know what clients or customers are looking for without asking them. I thought I would do something different and ask. You are so right about the plan, I have a good one but I need to stick to it. I know it will work, I just need to give it time.

              I am really wrestling with my question, I keep seeing great businesses with excellent products or service struggle becasue they haven't thought about marketing/advertising. I can't figure out why they don't market their business better. What hinders them from investing in this portion of the business? When I get a clearer understnading of that, I think I can better position my agency.

              Thanks. Really, thanks!
                • Re: How do I get an advertising agency off the ground?
                  DomainDiva Ranger
                  In my area...people design data retention applications and then park themselves on google 'waiting to be discovered'. A lot of businesses have bought in to the let the customer find it and if I build it they will come (with google ad-sense). Good marketing and advertising is a complex mix of both mediums.

                  My company configures both into one department. Too many times marketing has a campaign and then the sales people are left clueless with no material on how to sell what the campaign promises.
                    • Re: How do I get an advertising agency off the ground?
                      Iwrite Pioneer
                      That is a common problem. Marketing efforts should include support for sales, a lot of folks forget about the sales force because of the independent nature of sales, but the better equip the sales force the greater the opportunity for success. It is only good business. A campaign shouldn't be print or broadcast only, it should include all the tools needed to get the message out.
                        • Re: How do I get an advertising agency off the ground?
                          LUCKIEST Guide
                          Iwrite, How right you are. Marketing efforts should include support for sales.
                          A Business and Marketing plan should include all the tools needed to get the message out
                          and still make money for you. Did I mention SCORE??
                            • Re: How do I get an advertising agency off the ground?
                              Iwrite Pioneer

                              No, you hadn't mentioned SCORE, but you have now! I know it is a great resource, I'm familiar with it.

                              I really asked the question because I am interested in hearing what business owners and operator have to say. Even with bigger clients there seems to be a mindset that marketing/advertising is more of an optional business function than a necessity. If I am going to grow my business than I need to better understand the barriers that I am facing.

                              I think it can only help to ask potential customers/clients what they think.
                                • Re: How do I get an advertising agency off the ground?
                                  LUCKIEST Guide
                                  Iwrite, Silly me, I almost always mention SCORE. I am also a SCORE Counselor.
                                  Up to a point "
                                  I think it can only help to ask potential customers/clients what they think"
                                  Yes, but it is your decision right or wrong, good or bad.
                                  Or the BUCK STOPS somewhere.
                                    • Re: How do I get an advertising agency off the ground?
                                      Iwrite Pioneer
                                      Luckiest, I'm doing market research! This forum allows me access to a valuable amount of information.

                                      As a counselor, how many times have you encountered a business hasn't really taken into consideration the consumer, what the consumer wants, likes or needs? Can we say, "New Coke?" Coke tried to push it on consumers and what happened there? I think this happens everyday on a smaller scale with small and medium sized businesses, restaurants that don't offer vegetarian selections, clothing stores that only offer a certain style of clothing, or grocery stores that don't offer organic.

                                      This is going to be my agency. I am going to be responsible for everything, but it is good to know what customers/clients are thinking. I don't want to be like the agency that DomainDiva mention who comes in thinking they know it all and doesn't listen. I hadn't realized how strong this perception of advertising folks was. I've already learned something.
                        • Re: How do I get an advertising agency off the ground?
                          DomainDiva Ranger

                          Our Visual Communication Chief has a lot of advertising experience, and teaches at the university level. That being said he is stretched thin and soon I will have to make decisions about an advertising firm. My biggest concern is that the firm will not do as we tell them to do concerning the artwork, that is the AviaSphere is very sc-fi techie for a business application. I do not want to pay someone to tell me what to do with my product, I want to pay someone who will work with me to get MY MESSAGE, MY BRAND, MY APPLICATION out to the masses...very select targeted masses but still masses.

                          I am a team player. However I have found that in the advertising, web design world that a lot of people out there are NOT team players and want to see THEIR ideas rather than the customers ideas come to fruition. The final word here is that my Visual Communication Chief is free to veto whatever HE hates...thats how much I TRUST him.
                            • Re: How do I get an advertising agency off the ground?
                              Iwrite Pioneer

                              Thanks for your answer. You hit one of the nails on the head - I want to go it on my own not because I am the smartest or the most creative but because I think advertising has forgotten how to serve the client. I recently worked on a website for a Fortune 500 company and the agency I worked with left a typo up on their website for almost a week because the client didn't notice. No one wanted to eat the cost of making the change. It really wasn't that big a deal. After arguing with them for three days, I realized that this isn't the way I want to do business, this isn't how it should be. They finally came around but too much time and energy was wasted on something everyone knew should have happened.

                              You have a right to want someone to work with you. I was very fortunate to have a GREAT boss when I first got into advertising who framed the relationship between client and agency like this:

                              "The client is the patient and the agency, we are the doctor. The client comes to us coughing blood, and says, "I'm sick, but I don't want any shots, pills, serums, x-rays, and no surgery. Make me better. We make them better but we educate them along the way, we explain that sometimes what we do is going to hurt or be uncomfortable, but it is because we are trying to make their business better."

                              It took me years to realize how smart he was and by then I was no longer at the agency and he was retired. Advertising has forgotten things like this. Agency/client relationships no longer last decades, the average is about 3-4 years. That's a short period of time for any relationship. We are all trying to get the most out of the relationship before it ends. That's wrong. I don't want clients that I don't like or believe in or that I think will change agencies in a couple of years. A good marketing plan requires years and sometimes the real benefit will not be recognized until much further down the road. You cannot build a brand in a year, you just can't. Trust between a company and it's clients takes time.

                              You guys have got me thinking and challenging myself. Thank you. I think I might be starting this year off right!! Thank you both so much!!!
                              • Re: How do I get an advertising agency off the ground?
                                And that's exactly why your website looks exactly as it does.
                              • Re: How do I get an advertising agency off the ground?
                                guru2008 Wayfarer

                                In your post you stated...Well lets start with removing the thumb on you creativity "MISERABLE" |1.|wretchedly unhappy, uneasy, or uncomfortable: miserable victims of war.|
                                2.wretchedly poor; needy.
                                3.of wretched character or quality; contemptible: a miserable villain.
                                4.attended with or causing misery: a miserable existence.
                                5.manifesting misery.
                                6.worthy of pity; deplorable: a miserable failure.

                                PLEASE ALLOW ME TO REPLACE WITH
                                I am (successfully) working for others
                                |1.|achieving or having achieved success.||2.|having attained wealth, position, honors, or the like.||3.|resulting in or attended with success|


                                My personal opinions after running several small successful businesses is that one must "SEE THE FOREST BEYOND THE TREES and I personally think TRUST is the single limiting factor that keeps Myself in check.

                                -Synonyms 1. certainty, belief, faith. Trust, assurance, confidence imply a feeling of security. Trust implies instinctive unquestioning belief in and reliance upon something: to have trust in one's parents. Confidence implies conscious trust because of good reasons, definite evidence, or past experience: to have confidence in the outcome of events. Assurance implies absolute confidence and certainty: to feel an assurance of victory. 8. commitment, commission. 17. credit. 19. entrust.

                                Go Get "08"

                                • Re: How do I get an advertising agency off the ground?
                                  Lighthouse24 Ranger

                                  The primary things that have kept me from hiring an ad agency are:

                                  1) Like most small businesses, I have niche market -- a specialized clientele. I feel like I know who they are and how to reach them better than an agency would.

                                  2) I have not had a specific product or service that I felt could be cost effectively taken to the "next level" (i.e., be the subject of a professional ad campaign targeted to a broader market).

                                  For example, I consider my competition as a management consulting firm to be Deloitte, McKinsey, KPMG, etc. I know for which clients I can provide better service than them, and which I can't. To me, a costly ad campaign would simply mean I'm paying for mass exposure to clients I don't need and wouldn't get anyway.

                                  Hope this gives you some of the info you were seeking. Best wishes for a happy New Year.
                                  • Re: How do I get an advertising agency off the ground?
                                    criterion3000 Newbie
                                    Iwrite, I wish you were in my area. I would like to create an advertising division of my company. I've been trying to find someone with your energy and willingness, to do what it takes to serve the customer, in my area and I just haven't found anyone that I feel has it. Granite, I don't know you, but you speak the way I like people to speak about what they do for a living. I too feel I know my customers better than anyone. That is why I want to create a whole new medium of advertising. I'm headed out of town soon. Please drop me a note and I'd like to talk to you some time next week.
                                    • Re: How do I get an advertising agency off the ground?
                                      ulysses Newbie
                                      By now your quest has probably given you some great insight into your question. The latest ad slump almost begs to question why a company would need an agency. Even the most respected leader of national advertisers can't seem to find much optimism for the industry. It is not a big secret any more among the advertisers that advertising has fallen off a cliff. In fact it continues to surprise me that there is still as much as there is being spent despite the low and sometimes negative return. Sometimes you actually wonder why some companies continue to waste their dollars on what everyone knows does not work effectively. (Related article: Traditional advertising in danger) While has been concerned about advertising for a while, their hypothesis was validated when James D. Speros, the Chairman of the Association of National Advertisers (and the Chief Marketing Officer at Ernst & Young) admits to it. He writes in Fortune, "...advertising is no longer the be all and end all of moving product...Where we're all missing the boat is the lack of focus on creating big ideas that resonate with consumers. Instead of paying agencies by labor-based fees and commission, we should pay by the value of the marketing ideas they create."

                                      Ouch! It's probably not music to the ears of many advertisers and the agencies that they work with.

                                      There are two good things about Speros' admission:
                                      1. The folks in the advertising world are finally admitting that there is a fundamental problem.
                                      2. Things have to change everywhere: advertisers, advertising agencies, and the media.

                                      I've always known there had to be a better way, because I've been on both the buying and the selling side of the business. The downward spiral of advertising has also led me to question how an agency (or for that matter a newspaper, broadcast station or any other part of the ad delivery system) would know how to market and advertise another business when they haven't figured out how to market and advertise their own company. In other words, if your agency isn't expert enough to stay in business and prosper, how could you possibly help someone else in another business you may know less about?

                                      Some have said that advertising roughly pays for itself with a variable return, but on average at a dime to a quarter on the dollar. If that is true and if I had 90 days to pay for it, I'd start a new business today and buy all the advertising in the world. Anyone would. But we know that isn't true, don't we? Otherwise someone by now would've proposed spending all of the federal stimulus on advertising.

                                        • Re: How do I get an advertising agency off the ground?
                                          Iwrite Pioneer
                                          This is nothing new. P&G has been saying this for years, and have put into place pay scales that attempt to address this. No one said advertising was running great. In fact, what industry is? Everyone is rethinking how they do business. But if you look at the quote you use, he does acknowledge the need to advertise and to do so better: "Where we're all missing the boat is the lack of focus on creating big ideas that resonate with consumers."

                                          He is not saying advertising doesn't work but that the focus needs to get back to producing great ideas. There are agencies all over the country producing work that resonates with people. Advertising is going through changes, it is going and evolving, but I believe it's future lies in its past. Nothing beats producing work that speaks to something inside all of us, and that is what the old agencies knew but got away from.

                                          I think it is going to be interesting to see where things land. The pay structure cannot remain the same but that isn't a bad thing, or at least I don't think it is.

                                            • Re: How do I get an advertising agency off the ground?
                                              ulysses Newbie
                                              The fact that P & G, Mr. Speros and many other complaints over the years about the professionalism, lack of creativity and focus of the ad industry have gone mostly unnoticed. Mr. Speros comment were in 2004, long before the most recent recession. This leads some to say the problems with advertising may have caused the recession. As you say, most industries are also in some trouble today, but mxing a trouble with trouble may not always be productive, especially with a field that would be in enough trouble regardless of the economy. In fact, we are taught that advertising is needed less in a good economy and needed more in a poor one. And don't forget that Mr. Speros is hardly unbiased based on his position(s) at the top of the field, but it is true that recognizing the problem is a good first step. His pie-in-the-sky solution is another way of saying there is a lack of creative ingenuity that may not soon exist in an industry already at the bottom of the pay scale among fields that today's college students are considering. We should applaud someone in his position(s) for being as forthcoming and using a half-empty phrase as opposed to spelling out the solution in more positive terms. Of course advertising in the broadest sense includes a lot more than the industry itself and I think there are many avenues a company can use to succeed, but first there has to be a buyer beware mentality that can sometimes lead one to do exactly the opposite of what the industry may suggest. A survey out just this week by Nielsen points out that in a study of a quarter of a million people, consumers with a margin of ten to one say they trust their peers more than any other form of marketing or advertising. Of course a company can read that many ways, but one result might be to bypass the industry, drop all advertising and to concentrate on word-of-mouth among a current customer base with rewards and appreciation to help with recruitment of new customers. It might also mean doing advertisements disguised as news articles (think press releases, creative wording and placement) or it may mean a wine and cheese party every friday night, trade show involvement, or many other things; but it usually means that they will be saving money from what is normally called the advertising business. For example, Ford Motor Company recently decided to abandon the policy of having a mass market advertising campaign with the release of a new car (Fiesta) and to rely on bloggers instead. True, they are giving the bloggers use of the car for a short period of time, but dealers have done that for years without the blogs, so the advertising industry is really miffed. There are countless other ways companies are leaving the ad industry, and indeed the automotive industry has been advertising's largest customer. Advertising needs a 12 step program that has yet to be enacted or taught in college. In the meantime...buyer beward, think smart, follow your gut and hang on to your wallet.