The behemoths of Madison Avenue are no longer able to monopolize the ad agency market. With ever increasing advertising options to reach consumers, and companies increasingly spreading out advertising costs, small ad agencies are able to carve out a niche in the ad market and grow at phenomenal rates.
Over the last decade, we have seen the rise of Internet ads, mobile billboard ads, search engine advertising, ATM advertising, an increase in automobile ads, bench ads, streaming web tv, and hundreds of cable TV channels. Consumers are inundated from ads, not only from traditional advertising options such as television commercials and magazine ads, but also from product placements in TV shows, paid product reviews, search engine ads, and supermarket aisle couponing.
Companies, meanwhile, are looking for nimble and friendly regional advertising agencies to get their message out. Nowadays, branding a new product could start with a TV commercial which points users to a website, which could display a mini show called a ‘webisode’ featuring the product, which is promoted via a 10 million banner advertising buy, and linked all together with a radio and magazine ad campaign. These ads could be tweaked weekly, daily, or even on-the-fly based on consumer response. Banner or search ads could be targeted to a specific country, state, city, region, or specific neighborhood. All of these require an ad agency which is eager to adapt new technologies and proficient at designing ad campaigns across multiple platforms and mediums.
If you have a creative flair, can turn a clever phrase, are willing to take a chance, and build a savvy marketing campaign out of it, then the ad agency business is for you!
What do I need to know to get started?
A background in the field is not a requirement, but experience in traditional and digital media companies will help you have the foundation necessary to find and acquire the right clients. You will probably not be targeting Proctor and Gamble or Toyota for a portion of their ad budgets, but your regional small to medium size businesses are the perfect audience for your advertising know-how.
You can start a virtual ad agency or a traditional ad agency. A virtual ad agency outsources much of the design work while you retain creative control and overall marketing campaign design. This allows you to keep your employment count low while you are growing, but still tap into some creative designers and graphic artists for your advertising agency. You can use services such as Guru.com or elance.com to find this freelance talent.
A traditional ad agency hires the talent needed for all of the design and creative expertise. This is a more expensive option initially, but gives you greater control over the campaign design and keeps the creative talent in-house.
Defining Your Market
Acquiring customers will be one of the hardest tasks after you initially setup shop. We recommend targeting a specific industry or niche to be known as the ad agency for that area. For example, if you love dance and the arts, you might seek dance studios, art musems, art studios, ballet companies, and the like. You could also target a specific business type such as restaurants or lawn care. It is important that you understand the needs of the specific businesses you are targeting – a lawn care company has different ad requirements, budgets, targeting needs than a yoga studio.
You can find clients by placing advertisements in targeted publications, sending out a mailer to your clients (make it catchy!), or by tapping into your network of contacts. We’ve found the best way to find clients is to network with people in the specific industry and tap into everyone you know and everyone they know.
Investing in Your Business
Initially, you will need a computer system, software, and a printer. We recommend investing in an Apple laptop as it is the most frequently used platform in the advertising industry, it has all of the best design software, and it will allow you to take the computer to your client to see your work. The Adobe suite of software is a requirement in the industry and most of your work will be performed in PhotoShop, InDesign, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, and other products from Adobe. We also recommend investing in a color laser printer.
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