How do you find the right agency for your business? Well, it starts out knowing enough about advertising to know that their are different approaches to advertising and different agencies approach problems differently.

Justin Oberman is a prolific poster on Linkedin and is teaching an ad history class for AdHouseNYC, this is his summary of the main strains of agencies.

If you are looking for an advertising agency or a job in an ad agency, it’s essential to understand the different kinds.
Because no matter how much an agency says it reinvented the model, when you study advertising history, you discover that there are essentially five different types of ad agencies.

  • Bill Bernbach-type agencies.
  • Rosser Reeves-type agencies
  • Leo Burnett-type agencies
  • David Ogilvy-type agencies
  • And Howard Gossage-type agencies

Here’s a breakdown:
Bill Bernbach Agencies
• Advertising is an art form
• Focused on persuasion.
• Creative Idea Driven
• Entertainment over repetition
• Believes humans make decisions based on emotions.
• Every ad is based on human truths
• Idols: Bernbach, Droga
• Example: Erich and Kallman
Rosser Reeves (Ted Bates) Agencies
• Advertising is a science.
• Focused on the hard sell.
• Data-Driven
• Repetition over entertainment
• Believes humans make rational decisions
• Every ad is wrapped around a “unique selling proposition.”
• Idols: Data. They also have no idea who Rosser Reeves is.
• Example: Any good digital DR agency
Leo Burnett Agencies
• Advertising is symbolism.
• Focused on simplicity.
• Archetype driven
• Drama over cleverness
• Believes in the down-to-earth, wide-eyed perspective of Midwesterners
• Every ad is based on finding the inherent drama in the product
• Idols: Themselves as regular people
• Example: W+K or Any “branding agency.”
David Ogilvy Agencies fall somewhere in between.
• Advertising is capitalism
• Focused on selling or else
• Benefit-Driven
• Classy over entertaining
• Believes humans are led by emotion but justify it with reason
• Every ad is based on a product benefit interestingly told
• Idolis: Themselves as the creatively rational ones.
• Example: Mekanism, Note: Most agencies think they are Ogilvy-like agencies. But they are rarer than you think
The Howard Gossage Agency
• Advertising is propaganda
• Focused on solving problems
• P.R-Driven
• Less advertising over more advertising
• Keep it simple. Make it exciting. Believes humans want to have a good time
• Every ad is based on a conversation
• Idol: As Rory Sutherland put it: Gossage is the Velvet Underground to David Ogilvy’s Beatles and Bill Bernbach’s Rolling Stones. Not a household name, but to the cognoscenti, a lot more inspirational and influential.”
• Example: Mischief @ No Fixed Address, Anomaly, The early days of Crispin Porter Bogusky, Generalists
None of these types of agencies are better than any other.
All of them serve an essential purpose for every brand.
But none of them can truly be all of them.
Happiness in this industry is knowing where you belong.
Happiness as a client is knowing which one you need.

Some agencies can be hybrids- falling into more than one category.The Next Wave tends to fall into a cross between the brand driven symbolic style of Leo Burnett style crossed with the Howard Gossage problem solving propaganda. We aim to help our clients find a voice, and use it efficiently to convey their magic mojo in the marketplace

One of the latest trends is clients looking for a “Digital agency” which is an absurd ask. There are no agencies doing paste up, or shooting ads on film. We’re all digital, what the client is thinking is a media targeting strategy that relies on programmatic ad buying and search engine marketing. That’s all well and fine, but, if your message isn’t working, no amount of digital wizardry is going to solve your problems.

Learn about the different types of agencies- and then find one you can build a good long term relationship with. That’s been the best kept secret in advertising since Steve Jobs met Lee Clow or Phil Knight met Dan Wieden and David Kennedy. It takes time for any good agency to learn your business and fully understand your customers.