What kind of ad agency is right for you?

What kind of ad agency is right for you?

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.

Our soul won’t be sold

Soul stabbinbg logo. It's not a principle until it costs you moneyThe email came from another local agency. Can you please give us all the access to the client site, passwords, login info, account data etc. The client was copied on the email.

It wasn’t just any client, it was one of our oldest. One who we helped them birth their business, outgrow a location, move, go through many management changes. Dropped everything to make things happen for them- without rush fees. Their business was like a second home, comfortable, inviting. We know the staff by name and they know us.

Getting the dear john email hurt. The conversation that followed hurt more. The client was crying.

Our activism had collided with their politics.

For almost 20 years we’d been their champions, and they’d been ours. But, now that was all coming to an end. Because we won’t sell our soul to the machine, and they became a part of it.

The loss of their account won’t damage us at all financially. They may find out that they will pay a lot more to work with the competition. They may find out that the drop everything and get this done costs a lot more. It might not get done as quickly. They may pay for the learning curve of a new agency- or, they may just listen a little more, and do things outside what their comfort zone allowed before and feel absolved. These things happen.

But, when it comes to our soul, if anything, we’ve hardened our resolve to continue to fight the machine, to make things better in our community.

Because as the legendary ad man Bill Bernbach of DDB said “it’s not a principle until it costs you money.”

 

Advertising 101: Art & Copy, required watching

Cover of Art & Copy DVD

Art & Copy DVD cover

The number of “students” who come through this small agencies door, drawn by the work on this site is truly amazing. Many are about to graduate from 2 or 4 year programs that specialize in Advertising, Graphic Design, Marketing, Business or even the new buzz-degree “new-media.”

With the economy being what it’s been- we’ve also seen a lot of “seasoned professionals” in the market. People who’ve been going through the motions for 5, 10 and even 20 years- turning out what they believe to be “advertising” and “marketing” materials.

The sad thing is, most may know the tools- page layout, illustration, webdev- but, few- understand the why of what they do. I make everyone here at The Next Wave read, at a minimum, “Ogilvy on Advertising” or “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This” so that they understand the reason behind thinking before putting ideas on paper (or in “new media”). I’m seriously thinking of making them watch this too:

ART & COPY introduces the cultural visionaries who revolutionized advertising during the industry s golden age in the 1960s by creating slogans to live by and ads we all remember. You may have never heard of them, but pop pioneers Lee Clow, Hal Riney, George Lois, Mary Wells, Jeff Goodby, Rich Silverstein, Phyllis K. Robinson, Dan Wieden, and David Kennedy have changed the way we eat, work, shop, and communicate often in ways we don t even realize. From the introduction of the Volkswagen to America to the triumph of Apple Computers, ART & COPY explores the most successful and influential advertising campaigns of the 20th century, and the creative minds that launched them.

via Amazon link Art & Copy: Inside Advertising’s Creative Revolution: Doug Pray: Movies & TV.

An hour and a half of listening to the greats of this business- discussing what makes real advertising work. It’s the real thing, baby- from the genteel West Coast cool of Lee Clow- to the NY Bronx attitudes of George Lois, you get the feel for the business the way it’s supposed to be practiced- with guts and gusto.

Lois steals the show, with his straight forward comments about most contemporary advertising- which is missing as he calls it “The Big Idea”- but, while he’s put on a pedestal for growing Tommy Hilfiger from a no-one to some-one with one gutsy ad- the clear hints in the film about how he basically stole his own “I want my Maypo” to “I want my MTV” show how in advertising originality isn’t always the golden egg- effectiveness is.

If you are a student of advertising and you haven’t seen “Art & Copy” it’s time. If you are an advertising professional, and haven’t seen it- maybe someone should question what profession you are really in.

Because, as is alluded to in the film- we’re all students of public perception, desire, trends- and this film helps us understand how that process evolved from the beginning of the “creative revolution” started by Bill Bernbach, to today.

And if you want more good stuff to further your education, try our booklist.