OPINION: Isn’t it time agencies learnt how to market themselves? - Martin Jones believes agencies should put greater emphasis on self-presentation if they want to expand and increase confidence across the advertising industry

How would you feel if you paid a visit to an architect and found him or her practising in a poorly designed building? Or if you went to a Savile Row tailor and found him wearing an ill-fitting suit?

How would you feel if you paid a visit to an architect and found

him or her practising in a poorly designed building? Or if you went to a

Savile Row tailor and found him wearing an ill-fitting suit?

Would you be filled with confidence about their professional


No. So why is it that many companies which purport to be experts in

marketing - particularly advertising - appear careless when it comes to

marketing themselves?

I’m not talking about the ability of agencies in spectacular one-off

new-business pitches, but rather their day-to-day approach to marketing

that most difficult of clients - themselves.

Of course, there are numerous examples of agencies that do this

superbly, but equally there are many that should take things more


Support material which is sent out, whether it be a brochure, showreel,

credentials document or other form of propaganda, is often put together

with little care or thought about the recipient.

How does the reception look? Stylish and utilitarian or genuinely


Either way, is it consistent with the image companies want to give a

potential client, recruit, or member of staff?

Is there genuine synergy between all agency material? Does the logo

feature everywhere? Are the same colours used? Are the commercials on

the showreel the latest executions? To an outsider, would everything

look as though it came from the same source?

Of course, this all depends on whether the material is available in the

first place. ’Our brochure is being reprinted’ must be heard as often in

the agency world as ’the cheque’s in the post’ is by debt


There are many agencies that like to think of themselves as genuine


But there are significantly less who really seem to apply the same

rigorous disciplines to marketing themselves which they would insist

that their clients apply to their brands.

Yes, everyone is busy. But surely agencies should be taking note of what

they are always telling their clients: ’Invest in your brand’. Would a

retail client countenance stocking out-of-date material or, heaven

forbid, none at all?

By investment, I mean investment in time. It’s less about money and more

about care and consistency.

But is it important? Does it really make a difference? I would say that,

increasingly, it does.

As clients find it more and more difficult to differentiate between

potential agency offerings, many appear to be assessing an agency’s

ability to market itself as an indication of its suitability. The logic

is obvious. ’If an agency can’t market itself, how can I guarantee that

it can market me?’

As I said, it’s not just a case of throwing money at the problem. In

fact, doing so can often give negative results. Producing expensive

material can sometimes be interpreted by clients as an indication that

the agency will be expensive, although it could be argued that any

client who took such a limited view is not one with whom you’d be likely

to enjoy a mutually respectful relationship.

Perhaps agencies are finally beginning to see the light. Some employ

marketing directors as well as new-business directors - although

sometimes one person has to fill both roles.

Time will tell whether the move towards having a marketing function at a

senior level is a result of a desire to take the discipline seriously or

just agencies paying lip-service to a perceived trend.

The marketing of an agency brand is an important task. Perhaps the time

has come for them to seek a little professional outside help. Who would

you ask to pitch for your agency’s account?