How to Hire a Digital Ad Agency – The Final Round

April 9, 2010

This article is included in these additional categories:

Agency Business | B2B | Creative & Formats | Media & Entertainment | PR | Promotions, Coupons & Co-op | Staffing | Technology

Earlier this week, MarketingCharts presented 11 questions a company can ask during the initial vetting process of hiring a digital ad agency that can help ensure success.

Today, we present 13 questions to ask during the crucial final round of digital ad agency selection. As reported by MarketingVOX, executives from several digital agencies and marketers have offered their advice on the best queries a potential client can make to determine they are a good match.

Here is the final round of questions.

Bryon Morrison, president of mobile marketing and advertising agency Ipsh, suggests opening with a variation that has stumped numerous job candidates:

1. Are you an Apple or PC? “This one falls in line with, ‘If you were a tree what kind would you be?,'” says Morrison. In other words, you learn a great deal about their sense of design and technical biases.

2. How much of a campaign budget should go to digital? “The correct answer is that it depends on the campaign objectives and audience, but you’ll learn if they feel the world revolves around digital,” says Morrison.

3. If you found yourself having to unilaterally make a decision on behalf of your client, would you execute work that builds the brand or makes the sale? It’s an especially relevant question for digital agencies, because you will learn what their orientation is toward direct, e-commerce, data-driven marketing or if they lean toward immersive, flash-driven experiences, Morrison says.

4. How do you handle specialty work like mobile, social, eCRM, media, viral, digital OOH and other emerging channels? According to Morrison, this answer should give you a sense of whether the company takes an open or closed development approach and whether it believes in in best-of-breed partnerships or channel management.

In-house or Not?
Companies should, in fact, spend a lot of time delving into exactly what disciplines are available at the agency – especially the specialty ones, says Charlie Kondek, director of New Media Relations at MS&L Digital. “The truth is, not all marketing agencies offer the full breadth of skills and capabilities a client needs,” Kondek says. “Often, an agency is capable of web development but not managing owned media. Or, they are capable of web development and managing owned media but not earning media.”

According to Kondek, few agencies are fully capable of getting the best results in the three major areas of media: paid media, owned media and earned media. So it’s not a deal-breaker. “The norm is to handle several agencies to handle all these areas. Then the challenge becomes getting the agencies to work together and achieve maximum results for the client.”

Kevin Arthur, executive vice president of Firstborn suggests asking:

5. Has any of your digital work been leveraged for use in any medium such as print or broadcast?

6. What is your philosophy on matching the appropriate technology to a campaign idea?

7. How have you used technology in a way that hasn’t been done before?

8. Do you think small project teams have the ability to produce large scale digital assignments and if so how?

9. Is there a particular design aesthetic your agency is known for and if not what is your approach to translating brands in the digital space?

10. How have you spread awareness organically via social channels (or otherwise) as opposed to any paid media initiatives and how has that saved money for your clients?

Questions for the Pitch
After asking them to navigate that obstacle course, it may be best to let the agency close with its best pitch. To that end Nowell Upham, SVP at The Marketing Arm, suggests asking:

11. What has been your biggest viral marketing success story?

12. What’s your best example of integrating online and offline marketing?

And finally:

13. How many of your online promotions have hit the million-person participation mark?

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