Dear Agencies: If You Aren’t Experienced in Digital Ads, Stop Telling Clients You Are

Digital Ad

Let’s face it, there are way too many agencies running around trying to convince clients that they offer digital services that they in fact have very little experience performing. It is somewhat common for agencies, especially smaller ones or ones that haven’t yet fully adopted digital, to do this.

These agencies aren’t trying to do anything that they believe to be malicious. Generally they fall into one of two schools of thought: 1) They figure that they need to focus on winning the work and then will figure out who they can get to do it; or 2) They discount the experience and skills required to produce the service and think that they can leave it to one of their staff members to figure it out by learning as they go along.

Both of these approaches are really dangerous, especially when the service in question is digital advertising. There are just way too many agencies out there placing ads and spending client budgets that have no business doing so.

I was forwarded an ad performance report just this week which was created by one of these agencies  for a large client of theirs. The client was somewhat suspicious of the results and the agency’s real advertising capabilities and wanted a second opinion. Not only did this agency’s results flat-out suck, but they also created their own arbitrary, ridiculously low “industry averages” to make their poor results look better.

Since the client reached out to me for some friendly advice, I won’t go into too much detail about the stats provided to me and strain that client/agency relationship any further, but let’s just say that their “industry averages” for Facebook advertising was one-quarter of what the generally accepted average was during the dark days of Facebook ads when everything was in a sidebar and nobody clicked on anything. Trust me, this report was borderline marketing malpractice.

Think about it; Would you trust your television ad budget to someone who can’t tell you what a DMA is? Or would you allow an agency to place print ads if they couldn’t tell you what a column inch is? Well, when you hire these traditional agencies masquerading as digital agencies, that is pretty much what you are doing.

Acting like you are something you aren’t is never a good idea on the agency side. Unless you somehow get very lucky, the project will  fail, which will put a strain on your relationship with your client. Think about the client relationship before you accept a project that is going to fail. Is it really worth jeopardizing a long-term partnership for a short-term profit?

Don’t get me wrong, there are good digital ad agencies out there. There are also many bad ones. Now that I have transitioned from the agency to client side of the equation, watching a bad agency overpromise/underdeliver and then lie to a client that doesn’t know any better by telling them that they did a great job really bugs me. Digital advertising budgets for most companies aren’t huge and certainly shouldn’t be funding an agency’s on-the-job training program.

The key to finding a good digital ad agency is to ask lots of questions up front and require related case studies and references from past clients that the agency performed the same service for. You need to be sure that your digital ad campaign will not be the agency’s first.

Here is a recent post that offers up more tips and questions to ask when selecting a digital agency.

I know how hard you all fought for your advertising budgets. You deserve an agency that will help you get the most out of those precious ad dollars. With a little due diligence up front, you should be able to find the right partner.

Good luck!


Image Credit: MonsieurLui