Managing an advertising agency is complex. The landscape is constantly changing. Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) must consider how agencies are keeping pace with evolving strategies.


Engaging with an advertising agency is one of the most expensive marketing investments. It’s critical to ensure the marketing strategy, programs, projects, tactics, and especially marketing budgets stay on track.


Tight collaboration with agency partners is also tricky. Are all of the teams on the same page? Right up to your senior leaders?


It’s critical to know where you’re heading, for what reason, and how effective you’re managing. Here are five ways to evaluate and improve how you manage your advertising agency.



1. Year-Over-Year Marketing Objectives:

Are you working with the right advertising agency? Needs change over time. Projects change over time. Your solutions change over time.


A different mix of vendors may be needed to support your initiatives. You may need to evaluate the advertising agency against what you’re discovering to be priorities for the year.


It’s often effective to conduct an audit or gap analysis. Focus on the key priorities for the agency, in order to support your marketing objectives. Don’t let your agency slip, of course.


2. Marketing Strategy Definition:

Are you getting the right recommendations? Boilerplate campaigns and buzz-driven word concepts with little differentiation don’t work. These initiatives are just thrown in, loading up the campaign calendar, exposing a weak marketing strategy.


Not enough time is being spent collaborating with your agency partners. Have regular working sessions to evaluate company direction, needs, and gaps. Stay close to the trends.


Challenge your agency to align their efforts to a strategy that is specific, actionable, and measurable – to your organization. Don’t accept the templated proposal. Customize the marketing campaigns to what you demand.


3. Cross-Team Collaboration:

Are you treating your agency partners like outsiders? Don’t let marketing initiatives just pop up without a tie-back to higher-level strategies.


Your agency partners must be able to collaborate, work with you, or integrate with other agency partners. The goal is to foster effective internal and external teams across all of your projects.


At different times of the year, let agencies pitch new ideas.  Run a little wild.


Collaboration across agency partners can be exciting. Experiment with how they might push innovative ideas, but have tight controls over when and how projects tie back to the budget.


4. Creative Brief Drives Execution.

Are you working on strategic objectives or niche tactics? Ensure that all projects include a detailed project brief. It helps manage your advertising agency by documenting project scope, the objectives, the resource needs, and all deliverables.


For a creative brief to be effective, you should allow agencies to contribute to strategic planning when and where it’s appropriate…and allow for iteration.


At times, there is no sales involvement or buy-in from the products team. It’s possible that not even the CEO or CFO know exactly what is underway. A creative brief is an effective tool for senior leadership alignment and communication.



5. Marketing Budget Management.

Are your statements of work (SOWs) clearly defined and controlled? Issues with defining lines between strategic consulting, fixed-cost projects, or time and material resource costs can get blurred. Budgets bleed together.


Focus on return on investment (ROI) with accurate measurement is lost in the busy-work. You likely find it hard to track exactly where the marketing budget is going.


Focus your agency partners on the scope of work. Demand accurate reporting with communication of potential budget overages. You can set up contracts to manage advertising agencies where some fees cover account management and strategy-related work.


It’s really about setting up a culture of fairness across all integrated advertising agency partners.


Let it be known, though, that cost overruns and unexpected expenses are not acceptable.


Managing the Marketing Advertising Agency – Staying On Track

It’s about how you effectively drive execution with detailed planning.


You can drive focus by getting the right agency partners to work with you collaboratively. Tight communications enable you to know you’re getting the results.


Marketing budget controls align strategy with budget for clear return on investment, for all of your marketing initiatives.


Vince Koehler

Brings deep marketing expertise to help clients make brands successful and drive strong marketing return on investment.

Prior to SBI, Vince served as the VP of Marketing for Integer and led e-commerce Agency of Record account teams at VML, a full service digital marketing agency. During his tenure, VML became a market leader, growing from 72 to more than 700 employees. Prior to VML, Vince was the President of Propeller Interactive, a digital marketing agency with clients such as Koch & Sprint.

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