Dispelling the Myths of Working with an Advertising Agency

Advertising agencies have existed in the United States for more than 150 years. Until recently, the agency business model went pretty much unchanged. Agencies plan, create and manage advertisements for their clients. But something changed about a decade ago.

Today, people create, disperse and consume media completely differently than we did just 10 years ago. Agencies have had to adapt to these changes to remain valuable to their clients. It’s definitely not “Mad Men” out there anymore (although I am mistaken for Don Draper at least twice a day).

Some of the more common concerns businesses have about working with agencies might have been valid 20 years ago but don’t apply today. If you’re a business owner, hanging on to those misconceptions could prevent your business from getting to where you want it to be. Here are three of the most common advertising myths that are still going strong — and why they’re wrong.

1. Advertising agencies are too expensive.
So, you have an amazing product or service, and you’re ready to tell the world about it. Great! To get your name out there, there are two ways you can go: Work with an agency to get the word out or handle your marketing and promotion internally. There are always reasons to go one way or the other, but don’t let cost be the reason you decide against going with an agency.

Here’s an example: You have a campaign you want to roll out that includes promotional emails, new landing pages on your website, a radio spot, social media promotion and digital ads. A project like this would probably take a full-service agency around 500 total hours to complete. At, let’s say, $120 per hour, the total cost could be up to $60,000.

Can you do all this work internally? Maybe. You would probably need four experienced people to pull together a campaign like this. Hypothetically (and because it makes the math easier), let’s say you pay each of those people $50,000 a year. With benefits, your cost is probably closer to $75,000 a year. You also have the expense of office space, furniture, computers, software and training for those staff members. To support that team for a year would cost about $350,000.

At those costs, you could do a similar campaign every quarter for about the same cost as supporting four staff members for a year.

During down times when you’re not working on a marketing campaign, you don’t pay your agency. During those same times, you still pay your staff.

2. My PR person can do everything an agency can do.
That could be true. Let’s see … Can your PR person research your industry and your competitors? Analyze your business? Create successful marketing plans? Write killer copy? Design brochures? Design websites? Program them? Shoot commercials? Record radio ads? Purchase media? Combine all of these elements to tell one compelling story focused on your success? All in a week?

If so, then, yes, your PR person can do everything an agency can do. But if your PR person could do all those things, you’d be working for them.

3. My sales are fine. My product will keep selling without advertising.
It’s great to be proud of the products or services you offer, but there’s a problem with thinking they sell themselves. You know your business better than anyone. You know how much time, innovation, research and development goes into what you do. Your current customers know enough about your products or services to continue buying. Everybody else? They have no idea what you do or how well you do it. You need to continue to add potential customers to your business. You want them to need to buy your product.

Advertising agencies don’t sell products. They sell stories, feelings and lifestyles. Most people don’t buy products because they are the highest-rated. They buy them because they feel an emotional attachment to them. They buy them because that product reminds them of a favorite memory, a friend, a loved one, a song, even a smell. They perceive your product to be the highest-rated, even if it isn’t.

Word of mouth from your current customers is limited in how much it can increase your business. You need to tell your story to those who don’t know you yet. Agencies have experience doing that and can be a tremendous help to your future business.

With all the myths out there, it’s important to remember that working with an agency to handle your advertising means working with creative, talented people who are ready to learn everything they can about your business so they can share your story and help you reach your full potential.

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