Every bit of good marketing, advertising and PR starts with an idea. I don’t care if it’s a 12 month global campaign or a quick promo, everything starts with the idea and nobody is better at ideas than creative agencies. Combine creative crazy with digital smarts, and you’ve got a digital creative agency. Combine that with an awareness of overall digital marketing strategy, execution and campaign management and you’ve got your lead digital agency.
This article could put a few more agency consultants out there out of business, but who cares. i’ve never had much use for them anyway. So how do you know how to pick just the right creative agency for your digital marketing campaign?
1. HAS THE AGENCY DONE WORK THAT’S ALIGNED WITH YOUR SENSIBILITY? Forget about whether they’ve done work specific to your industry. You know your brand better than anyone, and you have a good idea of what your brand looks like, sounds like and acts like. Does the agency seem like they’d have a good shot at capturing that voice in the digital world?
2. YOU’RE LOOKING FOR A CHANGE. HAS THE AGENCY DONE DIGITAL WORK THAT REFLECTS WHERE YOU’RE TAKING YOUR BRAND?
Maybe your brand doesn’t offer the funniest products or services in the world, but you sense that you need to lighten things up a bit to reach new audiences or (looks around, whispers) go viral. When you close you’re eyes and imagine what that would be like, do you see any of the agency’s work that inspires you? Probably not, because your eyes are closed. Open your eyes again and look at their work. Does any of it have the vibe you’re going for?
3. INTERVIEW THEIR CREATIVE AND STRATEGY TEAM LEADERS. Want a good sense of who will be in charge of your brand’s marketing future? Take the extra effort and jump on a quick call or Google Hangout with the creative and strategy team and see if you like them or not. Do they seem engaged and genuinely interested, or are you just another account? What’s their attitude towards digital marketing? What thrills them most?
4. WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS? WHAT WILL THIS CAMPAIGN ACCOMPLISH? Stupid buzzwords aside, when it’s all said and done, what results do you want? Ideally, ultimately, it will be an increase in sales, but there can be other measurables along the way, like video views, shares, followers, likes, subscribers, downloads and new users. I think I just used a stupid buzzword. What successes has the agency had in these digital areas?
5. WHAT ARE YOUR NEEDS? As the marketing executive, what specifically are you looking to have done? What services does your brief call for, and how do the agency’s services match up? Are we talking about video and TV spot concepts and production, social media strategy and management, contests, a website or microsite, apps, games or a complete digital marketing campaign? Do they do most of the work in house or outsource? There’s nothing wrong with outsourcing, or even crowdsourcing, and it can often save you on budget, but find out if the agency has a strong track record as a lead agency and the ability to bring the right digital players together to accomplish your goals.
6. WHAT’S YOUR TIMELINE? Is the agency adept at pushing out good, fast digital work? Can they bore you with stories of the time they hit that one week deadline? Can they work on a tight deadline while reacting to changes and still stay within budget? Ask them. If they get nervous, press for details. It’s fun. If they thrive on it, add them to your short list. Digital is a fast-paced environment and no place for long, drawn out executions. I’ve never seen a long timeline… even if it started out that way.
7. WHAT’S YOUR BUDGET? It’s time to get down to it. If you know the budget range you have to work with, and don’t let the agency know, you could be wasting your time. I understand the temptation to price shop and see what you can get for what, but more often than not, a budget serves to crystalize the creative process as well as weed out agencies that are either above or below your pay grade. If you’re expecting a proposal of digital ideas from the agency, they’ll need to know how far out of the box they can go. If you aren’t able to share your budget, ask what ranges the agency usually works within, for the specific needs you have.
8. YOU’VE NARROWED IT DOWN, NOW WHAT? Which agency gives you the feeling that they understand your digital needs, can meet your expectations, hit your milestones and work within your budget? Yes, I said “feel.” At some point you have to put the calculator aside and go with your gut. Your brand is unique, you’re unique and each agency is unique. The tactics, tools and platforms may be all too familiar, but the one huge difference is deciding how you think the agency will work with you and your brand, and that comes down to collaboration.
9. WHICH AGENCY WOULD YOU RATHER BE STUCK WITH ON A DESERT ISLAND? Moving past the creative brief, the RFP, the proposal, the awarding of the work and the ensuing love fest, there’s the work. The most successful and rewarding work I’ve ever done was a result of close client and agency collaboration. In all cases, I sincerely liked and respected the brand team I was working with. That kind of mutual admiration is important when you’re on a desert island, and the only way to achieve it is through creative collaboration. Nobody ever gets off a desert island unless they work together through the ups and downs including storms, giant crab attacks and rabid social media fans that will challenge you every step of the way.
10. AND THE WINNER IS… The bottom line is that you’re trusting your name, reputation and maybe even your job to a group of people with some ridiculous agency name of a series of letters. Weigh everything above and if you need to, get support from the rest of your team.