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.

Marketing plans versus Operational plans

A recent reviewer of a RFP/RFQ response wrote this in the evaluation/scoring:

Plan provided is NOT a marketing plan it is a Operational plan. RFP is for Marketing not a replacement of the Administration.

People who think marketing is something separate from operations shouldn’t still be in business anymore. That myth should have gone away a long time ago.  Wisdom from Leo Burnett should be a good starting place, and he died in 1971.

  • “What helps people, helps business.”
  • “Before you can have a share of market, you must have a share of mind.”
  • “We want consumers to say, ‘That’s a hell of a product” instead of ‘That’s a hell of an ad.'”
  • “The sole purpose of business is service. The sole purpose of advertising is explaining the service which business renders.” 
  • “The greatest thing to be achieved in advertising, in my opinion, is believability, and nothing is more believable than the product itself.”

Considering the potential client runs a service business, funded with tax dollars, and is getting a failing grade on every count, (a local school district) a new operational plan and way to communicate the new way of doing business is the key to changing perception and their fortunes.

Marketing does not exist in a vacuum, it’s interrelated to everything a business does. Looking to management guru Peter Drucker, who died in 2005, we find yet another quote:

“Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two–and only two–basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

If that doesn’t tell you that an operations plan is marketing, you should reexamine your boss credentials.

Everything a business does, reflects upon its brand. And the brand is a story that the world tells each other, based on what they think they know about it. Apple, Nike, Google, the great brands- have a story that people can share without a whole lot of prompting- and for the most part, it’s a positive one. Sure, each has its detractors, but overall, the Q-score and the buzz line up with the company vision and goals.

To me, Apple started out as a “bicycle for the mind”- a tool to exercise your further your ideas and to help you share them. Nike reached into the competitor in all of us, and gave us an uplifting mantra- “Just do it” and Google, knew long before the rest of us, that with great power, came great responsibility and stated that their goal was to “Do no evil.” It’s take over a decade for most people to understand the power that Google had harnessed.

thumbnail of Actions Speak Louder than words

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Great companies do great things and communicate those things often and consistently. But here’s the key- it’s not through words or ads- “actions speak louder than words” should be the mantra of every ad agency across the globe. Doing good is doing well. Talking about yourself is just talk, and often times, boorish.

Need an example of actions speaking louder than words? I was at a minor league hockey game last night. I’ve been around hockey for at least 50 years, playing and watching. In a freak instance, a players stick was flung into the stands, and a fan caught it. Granted, sticks can cost as much as $300 these days- but, the team had the nerve to send down a team official to take the stick back. The crowd booed for at least 5 minutes. Considering the home team was down 2 goals, the players had to wonder why they should be trying their hardest to win- when they were getting a steady raspberry. Would a marketing-centric company dare to ask for the stick back?

The story that the fan will tell now is “I got hit by a players stick flung out of the rink” and they came and took it away. Or, the proper response, “I got hit by a stick at a hockey game, while sitting in my seat, and they came and checked to see if I was OK- and offered to let me come down after the game and get it signed by the entire team.”

Operations is marketing.