Would an advertising agency ever advise to not do advertising first?

blank billboardAssuming that the true purpose of advertising and marketing agencies is to help drive awareness and sales (not separating clients from their money as it is joked); would an advertising agency ever advise to not do advertising first? I would offer that the larger the agency the less likely that is to occur, but that’s not to say smaller agencies would be all that much different.

In our small agency we have a broad variety of clients and marketing spend on behalf of those clients. When we begin a new client relationship there’s a ton of research we do to learn about the client’s marketplace, the client’s challenges in the marketplace and where we see the best opportunities to leverage their brand. In the process of learning about the client’s business we learn about non-advertising issues and roadblocks to their ultimate success.

While we admit our job is not to fix our client’s entire business process, we have in the past and will continue in the future to identify what we see as critical issues that will impact the success of their marketing and advertising efforts. But on more than one occasion we’ve recommended to the client that business changes (i.e. distribution, positioning, and company name) be undertaken before they do any more advertising.

Clients waving money at advertising agencies can be very convincing, (and adamant) in their intention to promote their brand and gain sales despite their having knowledge that there are inherent problems with their business model. When the alternative is that the client will go to an agency that will do what the client wants, an ad agency’s resolve to stand on its principles weakens if not disappears. After all we are all in business to make money.
If it appears we are willing to talk ourselves out of doing client business you misread me.

The point is that when an agency identifies a significant barrier to growth, and if the agency is going to work with one hand tied behind its back, the metrics for success need to be both clear and realistic. From experience these are not enjoyable discussions to have with clients but absolutely necessary.

One of the most interesting parts of our job is gaining understanding of our clients business and being aware of the client’s entire business process so that we are able to make fully informed recommendations. Telling a client that they should wait to do advertising hurts the agency in the short term but in the long run shows the agency to be a good long term business partner.

Have you ever told a client or potential client to wait to do advertising?

About markkolier

Futurist, entrepreneur, left lane driver, baseball lover
This entry was posted in Advertising, Best business practices and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Would an advertising agency ever advise to not do advertising first?

  1. Great post and glad to be a like minded business partner. I’ve run across this many times in working with pharmaceutical companies because insurance reimbursement is a major obstacle to getting prescriptions filled. We can create great ads, spend millions on media but if the drug is not covered by insurance we’ve wasted their money. Worse yet when a doctor is called 30 minutes after a patient leaves to hear that the drug isn’t covered that doctor will never write a scrip for that brand again. I make it a point, as you know, to ask about operational and distribution issues prior to launching a campaign.


  2. markkolier says:

    Thanks David. Keeping the end purpose in mind is what a true business partner should do.


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