We will preface this post with the comment that we know there are lots of honest, hard-working agencies in the world doing really phenomenal work. And then there are the ones that give the industry a bad name. The proverbial ‘bad apples.’
These ‘other’ agencies are doing mediocre-at-best or often super-shady work – whether intentionally or out of ignorance, we can’t judge. But we have seen or heard too many horror stories from clients, witnessed it first-hand at an agency, or seen the aftermath of a client/agency falling-out. While we don’t mind that these bad actors make those of us doing ethical business look good, we do hate hearing of businesses being taken advantage of. We want you to know how an account should be structured, and what to be on the lookout for.
we do hate hearing of businesses being taken advantage of.
1. Don't let your agency own your data
It’s your company, it’s your data. Make sure your company owns it. Whether it’s Google Analytics data (this is the backend data from YOUR website!), or your ad campaigns, you need to have the access to the data, and be able to prevent others from having access. Unfortunately, in an effort to prevent data/account theft, Google most often falls on the side of whoever owns the email address the account was created under. Which leads us to…
2. Don't let your agency create/own your accounts
Your business needs the owner/admin account or highest level access for ALL your accounts to ensure you own the data and you can take it with you in the event that you are no longer working with your current agency. While account types may be called different names in various platforms, generally speaking, the highest level of access means that you can grant account/profile/user rights for other users and access billing information. If you can’t do those things, then you don’t have the highest level. If your agency is creating a new account for you, have them do it under an email address associated with your business. Accounts you should own include:
- Google Analytics
- Google Ads
- Google Tag Manager
- Social media accounts
- Your website CMS & hosting account
- Email platform
There are some digital ad campaign situations where you may not own or have access to the platform being used, such as specific ad servers. These would be situations where the agency with which you are partnered holds the account and liability for the use of the platform and runs campaigns on your behalf. Providing you access may not be possible, as it would expose confidential information about other clients, or create a liability for the agency. But you SHOULD receive reports showing you information on your campaigns, and the agency should be able to answer any questions you may have.
This certainly doesn’t mean that you have to set all the accounts up yourself – you can have your agency do this for you. But if accounts are being set up on your behalf, make sure that you own them by having them established in your company’s name and under an email address your company owns. If you decide to part ways, it can be surprising how your previous ad agency suddenly no longer has your best interests at heart.
3. Don't let your agency own your creative
This is a touchy one. Some agencies will try to retain the intellectual property rights for the art they create on your behalf, asking you to pay additional fees for the art files. This should be stipulated in the contract that you sign. While we are staunch supporters of intellectual property rights, your agency is not making art for art’s sake and shouldn’t be reselling creative designed for your company to anyone else. You have hired them to create the work they do, and you have the right to that work – as long as you don’t sign it away.
4. Don’t let your agency put their name at the bottom of your website
This one seems to be of little harm. What difference does it make to have a barely noticeable link in your footer? But people do notice (that’s one reason your agency wants to put it there), and it looks amateurish. Your agency’s work should speak for itself and if the site is that good, people will ask you who built it. If they did great work, and you want to do them a favor, leave them a positive review on the site of their choosing, or give them a shout-out on social media.
5. Don’t let your agency convince you they’re magic
Sometimes, great advertising can feel like magic. It creates an emotion or a connection that reaches you at just the right time. It is relevant, timely, and tells a story. It evokes a reaction and – often more importantly – an action on the part of your audience.
Great marketing is both an art and a science. It is not, however, magic. The best marketing has a solid strategy based on data analytics. It is carefully crafted with an understanding of marketing principles. And while it does take experience and a certain amount of instinct to turn the data into a successful campaign, it is not magic. Ask your agency why they are making their decisions. Ask them to explain the data, and what it means about your target market. Ask them to explain successes and failures, and how those inform the next moves. Ask them to explain it until you understand. Do not accept “proprietary information,” “secret sauce,” or any other euphemism for “we don’t know.”
An agency that is honest about the results they are driving for their clients will not balk at educating their clients about the work they are doing and ensuring you retain ownership of your accounts.
When it comes down to it, do work with an agency you trust, and who is a good fit for your business. An agency that is honest about the results they are driving for their clients will not balk at educating their clients about the work they are doing and ensuring you retain ownership of your accounts. Above all, make sure you talk to your agency and have a clear understanding of what decisions they are making, and why.
Looking to build a relationship with an agency you can trust?