5 Questions You Should Be Asking Your Advertising Agency Partner

Kevin VanValkenburgh

Connections Director – Guru


The world of marketing is crazy and constantly changing, making it hard to keep up. Because of this, clients and colleagues frequently ask me, “What questions should I be asking my advertising agency?”

Here are my top 5 most important questions you should consider in your media plans (in no particular order)…

Q: What are you buying with your media investment?

A: If you are blindly accepting that your agency is buying you the best possible inventory for your brand at the cheapest available price, this might be the most important question to ask. Always ask for an audit of your placements for transparency. Why? READ THIS. THEN READ THIS.

Inventory matters, and how you buy it does as well. Programmatic open exchange inventory, using Google PMAX or Search Partner Network, are the opposite of transparency and brand safety.  As a brand, you need to care about where your ads are being served and you have every right to ask. If your agency cannot or will not answer this, it may be time to get a new one.

Q: How is your agency prepared for the eventual demise of 3rd party tracking cookies?

A: Even though Google keeps postponing the actual time of death, the demise of cookies is inevitable. If your agency cannot answer how they are prepared to create and target audiences without them, it may be time to get a new one.

Q: What should I be measuring for me to be successful and take credit for my marketing investment?

A. This is a loaded question, as each answer should be different for each unique campaign. If the biggest insight you are getting is just the click-through-rate (CTR), impression count and how close to the actual spend is to the budget, you are not getting anything of value.

Your partner should analyze the data and help you craft a strategy that truly shows the value of the investment and the story it tells. If you aren’t already getting this, it’s probably time to get a new partner.

Q: What should I be doing on social media?

A: Another loaded question. Hint, social is about two-way conversations and finding ways to engage fans, followers, and friends with your brand. This may not be the definition you grew up with, but it is not a one-size-fits-all approach.

Modern social media is heavy on user-generated content (UGC), influencers, and specific content for specific platforms and audiences. It’s not the place for just repurposing your brand or product content and calling it a good day on social media. It is about engagement, interaction and shareable, snackable content that fits what the platform user is looking for. If the answer you get is “we do a content calendar and that content gets shared on all platforms,” you may need a new partner that can help you harness the power of social in ways that matter more to your brand.

Q: How important is the creative?

A: Creative is extremely important. Believe it or not, it’s even more so today given the importance of addressing insights into the psychographics of audience members with the current media landscape.

Today, marketing is heavily focused on digital and for good reason, despite the pitfalls you read about in the trades. Digital is far more accountable than traditional marketing. The 4 pillars that make up modern marketing are: Content (creative), Audiences (targets), Platforms, and Inventory. These sit on a base of measurement with an additional layer of AI/Machine Learning on top. If one pillar fails- they all will fail. It’s about relevance of message to the smaller group/individual and becoming more personal in how your product solves a problem for the target.  

Creative is most impactful when used in conjunction with the rest of these pillars. Today we are more able than ever to reach beyond basic demos of age, sex, household income.. Instead, we area able to parse life-stages, life-triggers, and in-market signals that bring consumers and brands together to solve their needs better than ever. The saying goes, “The Right Person, in the Right Place, at the Right Time, with the Right Message Equals Results.”

I hope these help you navigate the complex world of marketing today. Feel free to reach out if you would like more information.

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