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Integrated vs Specialty: How to Choose the Right Advertising Agency

If you go to any surgeon with a health issue, chances are their recommendation will be surgery. Go to a holistic practitioner with the same health issue and you may be told to make certain lifestyle changes like diet and exercise. Who’s right? Well, who knows? Both are specialists who firmly believe their expertise is the solution to your ailment. In some cases, one, or both, could be right. In other cases, neither choice is the best solution.

We see this happening in the marketing space – especially over the past 25 years or so with the rise of digital solutions. A company will say, “We need a website, a social presence and a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign.” They find a digital advertising agency and guess what, they agree! Shocker.

Take that same company with the same thought of needing a website, social and PPC. But this time they talk to an integrated advertising agency. Since the agency does not care which media form is used, they pump the brakes and start asking questions like:

  • What is the goal of your marketing efforts? Sales? Awareness?
  • Who is your target audience and where are they consuming media?
  • What is your one unique selling proposition (USP)?
  • What do you want customers to think after seeing your marketing messages?
  • What kinds of marketing have you done in the past and what were the results?

Lots and lots of questions. From there, the integrated agency does a bit more research and develops a marketing strategy and plan. Guess what? They see their target audience is a bit older and social media is not high on their media consumption list. But they watch a ton of television and use the Internet to research purchases they are considering. A social media campaign would be a complete waste of the company’s marketing dollars. And TV, which was not even considered by the digital agency (after all, NOBODY watches TV anymore), proves to be the most viable medium for the target audience.

Of course, this is an oversimplified example. We get that. But the point is the company went to a surgeon (digital agency) and the recommendation was surgery. But when they went to an integrated agency, they found they do need a website and PPC program for the Internet searches, but TV far outweighed social. By taking a media-neutral stance, the integrated agency has a far better chance of getting better ROI on the marketing dollars spent.

This is not to say specialized agencies have no place in the marketing world. Just the opposite. In many cases, a digital plan is exactly what a company needs. Or an experiential program. Or a promotions campaign. In these cases, a specialty agency may be the answer. In fact, many integrated agencies partner with more focused, tactical agencies and freelance specialists to help them execute channel-specific programs in which they may not have expertise or are deficient. In those cases, the integrated agency provides oversight over the initiative to ensure consistency in brand messaging, look and feel.

Let’s bring it around full circle – what type of agency is right for you? In short, if you already have a clearly defined marketing strategy in place, complete with identity guidelines and someone in-house to ensure consistency across all channels, then engaging a specialty agency to execute your short-term marketing program may be the right call. However, if you need an agency to help you look at your long-term goals, create a marketing plan to achieve those goals, and manage the entire process of executing the identified multi-channel initiatives, then an integrated agency is most likely the best partner for you.

And if you’re still not sure how to choose the right advertising agency for you, give us a shout. We’ll help you figure it out – even if we’re not the right fit for your needs.

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