Estimated at $590 billion in 2022, the global advertising market keeps growing. The nature of advertising, however, is rapidly changing alongside technology. While advertising agencies adopt the change, they widely differ in terms of services. So, how do you know what to look for in an agency and how to recognize the red flags? We’ve got you covered. Below you can find answers to those questions, along with our ranking of the top firms on the market.
A collection of designers, writers, art directors, developers, and strategy masters, Division of Labor is an across-the-board ads company able to meet an array of needs. They are known and loved for their collaboration and exceptional creativity. Clients also praise their meticulous planning and the clarity of their analysis.
2 - 9
$150 - $199
Sausalito, United States
Founded in 2009, Column Five is a B2B-focused creative agency that elevates brands through storytelling. It helps clients discover their unique advantages, tell better stories, and deliver their message to the right audience. Its work is centered around encouraging businesses to make better decisions for people, profits, and the planet.
50 - 249
$150 - $199
Costa Mesa, United States
The Bureau of Small Project is a top advertising agency that thrives on the idea of bringing more visibility and brand relevance to non-profits, startups, and challengers alike. Backed by brand building experts and marketers that have helped Fortune 500 companies and other industry leaders attain massive success, this branding agency from LA offers a big brand experience to small businesses.
10 - 49
$150 - $199
Rolling Hills Estates, United States
Founded in 1990, The Miller Group is one of the oldest and most reputable branding agencies Los Angeles has to offer. The team helps mid-market and enterprise-level companies build a competitive edge, rooted in meaningful consumer connections. It offers a wide selection of capabilities, from strategy and branding to digital and video production services in Los Angeles.
10 - 49
$150 - $199
Los Angeles, United States
Founded in 2004, Kiosk values strategic data analysis above all. They gain their strength from their industry knowledge and carefully profiling their clients. Through regular data-based optimization, this top advertising company constantly refreshes themselves and their customer relationships.
50 - 249
$150 - $199
Novato, United States
While fairly a new ad company, Complex Creative already scored successful campaigns with reputable businesses, including Debenhams, NHS, and Unicef. Apart from their dedication to meet all their clients’ needs, they are also complimented greatly for excellent communication.
2 - 9
$50 - $99
Founded in 2009, Adhere is exceptionally strong in video production and full-funnel marketing. This top ad agency claims to bring together experience and a fresh perspective when creating marketing strategies.
10 - 49
$150 - $199
Houston, United States
Founded in 2011, Manifesto Agency already has an impressive clientele, including Amazon and Starbucks. Their motto is to know their client inside out and provide a personalized experience for each of them. Customers are blown away by their ‘sensational’ creative work and clear communication.
10 - 49
$150 - $199
Milwaukee, United States
Serving branding and design excellence since 1998, Lounge Lizard Worldwide can not only help you keep up with the market trends but also evolve into an industry leader. Its marketing campaigns have poured millions of dollars and an unprecedented number of customers into clients’ businesses. The firm offers expertise and resources for startups, Fortune 500s, and everyone in between.
10 - 49
$100 - $149
New York, United States
Los Angeles, United States
Founded in 2002, Lift Interactive is considered one of the top creative houses in Canada today. The firm aims to make each of their accomplishments meaningful: “If it looks good but doesn’t work, it’s not a success.” Clients are particularly content with the team’s problem-solving abilities and responsiveness.
10 - 49
$150 - $199
The majority of advertising outfits have one or more areas of core expertise, while others prefer to offer everything under one roof. Before starting to look for an agency, you should know what services you need. Below, you can find a handy classification of agencies and suggestions on when to use them.
As the name suggests, full-service agencies are set to be your ad gurus. They operate in multiple channels and engage in wide-ranging campaigns. Their services typically include but are not limited to:
Full-service advertising firms will be there with you from campaign design to assessment to ROI analysis. You can provide them with your goals and objectives, explain your business, and just sit back and relax.
If your company needs a full-blown advertisement plan, but you don’t have the time or resources to create one yourself, then a full-service agency might be a good fit. Depending on your relationship and how much you’d like to be involved, you might want to appoint someone from your team to work exclusively with the agency. The downside of this option is usually the price.
If digital material appeals to your audience more, you might want to look for the best digital advertising companies in town. They will take care of your brand’s digital presence and develop an advertising campaign, preferably a holistic one that engages on multiple platforms. Their services would include:
While full-service agencies deal with almost everything, including traditional forms of advertising, online advertising agencies solely focus on the digital realm. This means that there is a higher chance their campaign would be more comprehensive and robust.
The answer depends on how well you know your audience. If you have specific target customers in mind, then this type of advertising company is a better choice for you. Digital platforms provide tools for precise audience targeting and have a wide range.
You’d like to narrow down your focus in the digital world further? No problem. There are numerous ad companies out there that can help you with that. With their content creators and ad optimizers, social media advertising companies make sure you are up to date with all the new trends. Because social media is their focal point, these firms are incredibly knowledgeable about platforms’ ever-changing algorithms and can keep customer interactions alive.
In today’s day and age, there’s no need to explain the power (or importance) of social media, especially if you’d like to establish your brand’s personality. It allows a degree of freedom to interact with the customers and develop a tone for the brand. If you believe your audience would enjoy this sort of engagement rather than one-way communication, you can look for a social media agency to cooperate with.
Creative advertising agencies focus on design services more than a marketing strategy. They deliver visually appealing product design and enticing copy to showcase your business and usually work with other firms for a fully developed service.
Businesses that prefer to plan, carry out and monitor their ad campaigns work the best with creative agencies. Creative agencies are much smaller in size and offer clear expertise in their field, and possibly a smaller bill.
Again, the premise is simple: these agencies buy the place where your advertisement will appear eventually, traditional or digital. Like creative agencies, media buying agencies also work with other marketing and advertising agencies for a comprehensive service. They also often give recommendations about the optimum time slot to advertise for good exposure.
If you have the creative designs, know exactly who your target audience is and what platforms are the best to reach them, media buying and planning agencies can help you with an efficient strategy to get maximum exposure.
PPC, or pay-per-click, is currently one of the most popular types of advertising. In this model, the top online advertising companies will place ads on an ad platform, most notably the search engines, and pay the host of that platform every time someone clicks their ads. It is essentially buying every visit to your website or app. Overall, PPC is challenging. From campaign design to management, it requires dedication and know-how, and a designated budget.
PPC advertising companies are generally not the best choice for small businesses which might be better off with creative houses or digital ad agencies. A PPC company shouldn’t be your last hope to save your business either. PPC companies work the best with businesses that have surpassed a certain revenue threshold or businesses that already have PPC campaigns that work, but they want them to work better. If you are a small business that wants to get into the PPC game, you might think of hiring a freelance PPC consultant.
Client/agency relationships are diverse. Businesses may prefer to work with multiple teams with different skill sets, hire a full-service agency to let others deal with it, or a firm that would help their own marketing division. It’s a unique decision depending on the terms, depth, and complexity of the project and, of course, the budget.
In any case, the key is to define your objectives clearly before contacting an ad agency to receive the best service for your business.
Defining your motivation to hire an agency will help you weed out the advertising agencies that offer services you do not need for the time being, as well as allowing a clear and healthy engagement from the start when you find one.
The typical reasons businesses wish to team with an agency are:
We cannot stress enough the importance of realistic financial planning. If you are hardly getting by with your business, it might not be the brightest idea to google the biggest advertising agencies. Decide on a reasonable range that you can afford to spend monthly, which will depend on your revenue and goals adding the expected return on investment (ROI).
Understanding the financial arrangement with the agency thoroughly also helps. Besides the project fee, businesses should also decide how changes to orders are treated as well as potential additional costs.
Businesses might overlook this aspect if the sales are relatively okay, and the cash is rolling. But it is a key question regardless. Is it the perfect price/performance ratio, exceptional products or customer service, or something else that makes your product/service unique? The top advertising firms will investigate this question further, but you need to be prepared to answer it.
Of course, if you are looking for professional help, you do not need to carry out a full-blown segmentation study, but it is always a plus to have an idea of your target audience. It also helps to give an idea to decide the type of service you’d be looking for. For instance, if your target audience is global, it’s better to look for mobile advertising companies than traditional ones that would provide a more local service.
Now that you know what you want, you can start thinking about what you would never want. We have a brief list of red flags that indicate a larger problem. If you witness any of these as you engage with a firm, take your money and run.
It is possibly the most important red flag of all. It’s never a good sign that you are running after an agency and worry if they received your message. The best advertising agencies would communicate what you can expect clearly, give you rough deadlines, and provide a dedicated contact person. You can pick up little hints that reveal a larger problem. Are they running late for meetings without a warning? Do they answer back only after several follow-up emails each time?
Poor communication is a potential indicator of weak reporting. Reporting is the bread and butter of advertising as it indicates the effectiveness of the campaign. If in doubt, get out. Diagnosing poor communication early can save you time and money.
It is a trend among some advertisement agencies to sell an off-the-shelf solution to businesses that worked in the past. But those solutions worked for a unique situation, potentially for a distinct business. If an agency talks more about their ideas and strategies with little mention of researching your business and industry, it is a sign that they may palm you off with a generic solution they have at hand, slightly tailored for you. Make sure to end up with an agency that values the process of getting to know you.
The advertising world is changing rapidly, and how advertisement companies present themselves is a great indicator of how well they are keeping up with the trends as well as their skills. If their websites look outdated, their social media accounts don’t appeal to you, or their copies don’t sound catchy enough, would you trust them to tackle your ad campaign?
If in doubt, you can directly ask what their advertising strategy is: How do you market yourself? What are your criteria? And then ask yourself, does their website, creative design, and content reflect what they say?
There is no secret formula for advertising. Top advertisement companies will be honest from the start, would not guarantee any numbers, and place adequate importance on measurement and tracking to see if their campaign is working. Advertising is about trial and error and each campaign delivers different results for each client; the aim is to find the best one for your business.
Each business and each advertisement company are unique. That said, we’ve prepared some fairly universal points to keep in mind while looking for your perfect advertising partner.
Advertising is a collaborative work; thus, chemistry is essential for working together towards a common goal. Before signing the contract, measure how well you communicate and how comfortable you feel about the team as well as other variables. Make sure their values align with yours, professionally and ethically.
An agency’s portfolio showcases their skillset and sense of aesthetic. It allows you to see how good their creative team is and whether it fits your business’ taste. They might be listed among the best advertising companies and yet fail to appeal to you.
It is also useful to check whether they have worked with businesses along similar lines as yours. If a company knows your industry well, chances are their solutions will be better.
Portfolios are important, but the agencies themselves carefully compile them. Similarly, the firm would provide you feedback from the clients that loved to work with them if you ask for references directly. It’s good to be skeptical, even with the top ad agencies. If you are not satisfied with the case studies and reviews you found online, you can also hunt for their past clients and look for feedback on third-party websites.
After defining your goals, you should have a clear picture of what sort of services you need from an advertising agency. While they usually advertise the services they provide, you should also ask questions along the lines of “What are the three things you do the best?”, or anything that makes them reveal their areas of core expertise. Do not trust the “we’ll do whatever you ask for” attitude.
Today, advertising agencies can measure almost every aspect of a campaign to assess its effectiveness. The extent to which an agency can explain their strategy of how to measure and report on your campaign is an indicator of how meticulously they work. When asked, they should be able to describe what metrics they put forward to test the performance, what technologies they rely on for analytics, ROI analysis, and more.