Establishing an advertising agency

Since advertising agencies provide primarily services, rather than final products, a small ad agency can be a low-cost start-up. If you outsource graphic design, copywriting and production, you can reduce overhead even further. Then as your agency grows, you can bring some of the primary services that you use in-house. Before you start your advertising business, you will need to do the following:

  • Collect media kits that list advertising rates, demographics and specs.
  • Introduce yourself to sales representatives at the media outlets you plan to use regularly.
  • Create a portfolio of past work, if you have been in the industry, to highlight ad campaigns you have worked on in the past.

A strategy agency, SPACE, which launched its West Africa office in Lagos, Nigeria, recently, is a clear case study using the above listed services.  The launch of its first branded office is part of the firm’s strategy to build an Africa wide network of its offices.

SPACE, having started from a shared office space some years ago, is set on becoming an Africa advertising network.  Most existing regional agency networks are nominally managed from European or Middle- Eastern regional hubs (with Africa variously falling under “EMEA” or “MEA” coordination).

In fact, in most cases, ‘management’ tends to be restricted to the setting and policing of revenue and profit targets, with little or no effective intra-African operational coordination, skills – and capacity development or focus on consistent standards of delivery across multiple markets.”

According to the General Manager, SPACE Nigeria, Frances Eza, SPACE has redefined traditional agency roles to develop multi-skilled and multifaceted, non-siloed and collaborative approach.


Stay on top of the advertising game

By subscribing to trade publications geared to ad agencies, you can keep up with industry events, trends, suppliers and technology.


Create a business plan for your advertising agency

Starting your own company by picking up where you left off at your last job in advertising may make it seem like the only change is that you are now the boss. But there is more to starting your own agency to consider. Start with a detailed business plan and operations plans.


Join advertising industry trade associations

Joining a trade association not only allows you to continue your education and keep up with trends and technology, it also allows you to meet with your peers at trade shows and conventions and enter awards contests to add to your credentials.


Find clients for your advertising agency

You have planned your business, but now it is time to find clients. Start by researching what companies regularly use advertising and what companies are in the market for a new agency.


Build your contacts

Just as important as finding new clients, is the search for media contacts. If you have a system set up for media kits, rate cards and advertising specs, you will save time when in a crunch on your advertising campaigns.


Go virtual

A bricks and mortar business is not a necessity now that we are living in the Internet age. The economy has become more global, so more companies have looked to virtual agencies to provide services that were in the past limited to local agencies. There are two ways to become a virtual online agency. The one that requires the least effort and capital is to have your presence on the web, but actually control the client accounts just as a bricks-and-mortar agency with good customer service and account management. The second option is to set up your website to enable the client to build their ad campaigns themselves.

This requires a great deal of website programming and database management online. For instance, you would allow the user/client to choose the media format, the frequency and the budget before you even start managing the account.


Create an Internet advertising agency

If radio, print and television hold up three corners of an advertising agency, then the fourth cornerstone would have to be the Internet. Companies are increasingly shifting their advertising dollars to alternative media, which means there is a need for agencies that offer Internet advertising services – Search Engine Optimisation.

For instance, SPACE houses a host of disciplines under one roof – from media and strategy to creative, Public Relations and client service as well as production.

The agency provides a full scope of services to its clients. It is a model that allows every team member to get started on a job at the same time, instead of being briefed at different phases, allowing for a more seamless and effective solution.

In an industry where clients are trapped in a vicious cycle of attempting to drive down margins, resulting in agencies charging lower commissions and clients then becoming unhappy with what they believe is poor service, SPACE provides clients with the right solutions and the right people at the right cost.

“It’s difficult to commoditise the services ad agencies provide to their clients, because we do not provide identical, comparable units of service,” Eza argues.

She adds that one would never look for the cheapest doctor in the neighborhood, and that the same preference for quality increasingly applies when clients look to buy services from agencies.

“Our job is to change or reinforce human behaviour. Essentially, clients are buying expertise and when it comes to expertise, all things are not equal,” says Eza.

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