Is your creative agency killing your campaign?
If your campaign is a flop, your ad creative might not be the problem. Instead, it's time to take a hard look at your agency, says contributor Geoff Gurevich.
Let’s talk about your creative agency — the team of marketing gurus who take all the messy, disjointed advantages about your company that you provide them with and turn it all into a polished campaign. They did a SWOT analysis, the pitch is polished, and you spent exorbitant amounts of your marketing budget to get their campaign in front of your market.
Then, the seemingly impossible happens: crickets. Was it the creative itself or something else? Let’s explore the possibilities.
The creative may not be the issue
One of the biggest mistakes your agency is probably making is believing you. While you prefer to think that your agency is in the business of getting you great results, that’s actually their secondary goal.
Their first goal is keeping the agency in business — a goal which requires making clients like you happy. It’s the reason you’re assigned an account manager whose only job is to refine how the rest of the team’s jargon is conveyed to you, their client.
This relationship creates a conflict of interest for your business. They listen to your concerns and provide elegant solutions — but in many cases, these concerns are based on gut feelings rather than hard data or research to identify the real issues your company is struggling with.
Many times, upper management is too close to the business to understand the way the market views their company (their positioning). Their anecdotal insight is valuable, but researching the needs of your company’s target market is often more critical to success.
Creative agencies that typically work with large brands are in the habit of testing concepts with focus groups before releasing final work to the masses. Yet, the majority of agencies don’t place enough importance on the research that would land them on the right trajectory to begin with.
There are certainly exceptions. There are quite a few creative agencies that are diligent in this area, but the majority either glaze over this process or fail to connect their concepts to the findings.
Can an agency be creative and analytical?
Today’s creative agencies are spending less time pitching themselves as the boutique or traditional advertising experts they started as, instead adopting a “full-service” approach. The problem lies in the fact that most agencies do not excel in all areas of marketing, and many are adopting digital because they have to.
All too often, services that are outside of the agency’s core competency are outsourced and white-labeled without the client ever knowing. So, the creative agency you just hired to run your entire marketing portfolio is likely outsourcing management of the distribution channels that give their content the runway to succeed.
The result is an inherent disconnect to what your account manager can communicate back to you, with intelligence, regarding the inner-workings of your campaigns.
If your pay-per-click advertising is weakly executed or your SEO efforts are minimal or misguided, you may go months or years without knowing that these factors are killing your success, not the creative itself. Your results now heavily rely on their background “partner,” who you likely did not take the same care to vet, or worse yet, are not even aware of.
But you wanted to hire a single point of accountability
Some of the largest organizations in existence (Sears, Procter & Gamble, Kraft) still prefer to maintain a healthy mix of true boutique agencies to handle their areas of expertise separately. One agency may be responsible for all digital creative production, while another agency places and manages the media.
For example, a dedicated digital marketing agency is probably better suited to build, manage and optimize paid search or display campaigns than a traditional marketing agency that offers digital services.
The same is true of a digital agency offering printing services or traditional media placement. In most cases, it just makes sense to utilize firms in the areas that they are truly experts.
Instead of blindly taking on an entire marketing portfolio management scope with an agency that presented well in one area, take the time to discuss each channel in-depth and understand their strategy. What methodology will they use to conduct research, create concepts, place media and assess results?
Try to gain an understanding of what your prospective agency handles internally versus what they outsource. If they outsource or partner with another agency, chat with them directly and find out who your point of contact will be throughout the engagement. After having these discussions, you’ll be in a stronger position to decide whether the agency you are considering can handle it all, or whether they’re stretching their capabilities on your campaign.