10 Reasons to Hire an Agency. Reason #3

Day 3 in a 10-day series on reasons to hire an agency.

On day 2, we looked at a very popular reason that marketers hire agencies:  they have experience in my vertical.  See yesterday’s post.>

Today, we’re evaluating a slightly less popular reason, but one that seems to be making a lot of headway, especially in the din surrounding social media.

Reason #3:  The agency has a lot of experience in a particular medium.

This is becoming a popular reason for hiring an agency:  they kill it on television.  Or they’re social media experts.  Or they do great radio.  Or they’re DRTV specialists.  Or they’ve got out-of-home down to a science.

And agency owners (large and small) have been drinking the “specialist” kool-aid for a long time.  They think “I can be better positioned, and therefore more competitive, if I’m a specialist in SOMETHING.”  And so they focus on TV, because production budgets allow for a lot of buried costs.  Or they focus on radio because the creative director has a great voice.  Or they decide that mobile is the “shiny new thing” that they can own in their market.  Heck, they’ve probably written white papers (haven’t we all?) on how much they know about their specific medium and the opportunities it affords.  Haven’t you noticed all the specialized spinoffs from the big holding companies?

There is a healthy upside to this line of thinking.  An agency that has deep experience in a particular medium can be extremely helpful to a marketer, especially if the agency is buying the space or time on your behalf.  It likely implies that the agency also has strong relationships with the media reps, which can mean the most advantageous pricing and rate negotiations on your behalf.   It also may mean that there are some best practices that have been honed over years of channel experience.  You (the marketer) can certainly be a beneficiary of all that knowledge.

But hiring an agency because they kill it in a medium can also be a slogging, slippery slope.  It may mean that your entire marketing plan will be re-jiggered – by an outside party with interests that may not be aligned to yours – to focus on the medium it knows.  Not bad if your objectives call for a national TV launch, or a social blitz.  But what if it doesn’t?  And what if choosing the wrong medium does damage to your brand?  How much will that cost to recover?  Likely a whole heck of a lot more than you saved by buying your spot cable at an average of 6.88%.

Especially in the age of integrated marketing, choosing an agency for a medium specialty is shortsighted at best, and strategically disastrous at worst.  The fundamental shift in all marketing over the last 15 years has been towards the consumer, whether that consumer is a military housewife, or an enterprise IT purchasing manager or anyone in between. Marketers need to put the consumer, not the medium, at the center of the plans, and then choose the right channels, the right messages (and these days, the right conversations) and the right timing to meet that consumer’s demands.

Tomorrow:  Reason #4 – The agency gave a great pitch.

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