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What’s a Creative Agency? How They Help & How to Find One

A good creative agency can seriously improve your marketing. Here's how to find (and vet) the perfect partner for your brand

Establishing a strong brand presence is a time-consuming process that requires considerable effort. Building lasting connections with your audience largely depends on effective marketing. However, if you don't have a proficient in-house team to create and execute your marketing plan, you might need assistance from an external partner. But, selecting the appropriate agency that can help you with this task can be a daunting task. With so many different types of agencies out there, it can be confusing to determine whether you should hire a digital agency, ad agency, or creative agency.

In this article, we'll provide you with all the essential information you need to know about creative agencies. We will discuss what they are, how they differ from other agencies, and guide you in finding the ideal agency for your brand.

What is a Creative Agency?

A creative agency refers to a company that provides a range of design, marketing, and advertising services. Their services cover various creative aspects of your brand, including strategy, execution, and promotion.

Although some creative agencies may specialize in specific areas, they generally offer the following services:

Strategy Services 

  • Advertising strategy 
  • Brand Strategy
  • Content Strategy
  • Marketing Strategy
  • Social Media Strategy 

Measurement and Analysis

Content Creation (AKA “Creative”)

  • Annual Reports
  • Case Studies
  • Blogs and Articles
  • Branding
  • Copywriting
  • Copyediting
  • Content Planning and Publishing
  • Data Visualization
  • Ebooks
  • Explainer Videos
  • Graphic Design
  • Infographics
  • Interactives
  • Animated Video
  • Motion Graphics
  • Presentations
  • White Papers
  • Video
  • Motion Graphics (or Animated Video)
  • Microcontent
  • Photography
  • Web Design and Development

Communications Services

  • Media Buys
  • Paid Placement
  • Sponsored Content
  • Influencer Marketing
  • PR

Basically, a creative agency is a group of skilled professionals who can help you with your brand's overall strategy. This typically involves a combination of the following services:

  • Art Director
  • Creative Director
  • Brand and Content Strategists
  • Account Directors/Managers
  • Producers
  • Writers and Editors
  • Videographers
  • Web Designers and Developers
  • Graphic Designers
  • Content Distribution Specialists 

Additionally, some creative agencies may collaborate with specialized partners like video production houses, depending on their organizational structure. While we don’t have all of these team members on staff at Studio Ostendo, we do have an extensive network of creatives and leaders in all fields, which allows us to beautifully execute the work that best suits our clients.

How Can a Creative Agency Help Your Brand?

A creative agency offers a wide range of services that can help your brand in various ways. They can fill gaps in your marketing team or take the lead entirely. Here are some ways a creative agency can help your brand:

Fresh Perspective

When you're too close to your brand, it's easy to miss the bigger picture. A creative agency can provide a fresh perspective and ideas to improve your strategy and achieve your goals. Plus, it’s their job and profession to look at things in new and creative ways. Hence the term, “creative”!

Expert Execution

A creative agency is a team of talented specialists who can craft and execute your marketing strategies. From developers to designers, copywriters to data visualization experts, they have the knowledge and skills to produce content that works best for each platform. Be sure to work with an agency that has a proven track record by checking their case studies.

Insider Knowledge

A creative agency has unique insights into what works, what doesn't, and what can improve your results. They work with a range of clients across industries, so they can share other brands' successes and mistakes without using your brand as a guinea pig.

Connections and Creator Networks

A creative agency has an established network of expert creators who can provide tough-to-locate specialty services. Whether you need a production house to film your latest video or a developer to code an interactive website, they have the skills or the expert referral to get it done.

Speedy Production

A creative agency is a sophisticated machine accustomed to producing a variety of content quickly and efficiently. They're also aware of common roadblocks and pitfalls that can sabotage production, so they can better navigate through them.

Quality Content

Quality, consistency, and cadence are crucial to a successful content marketing operation. A creative agency can produce quality content at a high volume with expertise and a solid infrastructure. They will also work hard to find the best creative for your brand, even if it means disagreeing with you or fighting for an idea they believe in.

Bonus: Blame Outsourcing (Agency Scapegoat). If things go wrong, you can always outsource blame to a creative agency. Of course, a good agency will work to avoid failure at all costs. But if things go awry, sure, go ahead and blame your agency if it saves you your job. (Just take them with you when you’re moving on to your next gig.)

Full-service creative agencies can provide even more benefits to your brand. They specialize in your particular industry or offering, providing expert insights and the right recommendations for your unique needs.

4 Signs to Know If You Need A Creative Agency?

Not every brand requires the services of a creative agency, especially if they have a capable in-house team that can execute their marketing strategy effectively. However, if you lack the following, it may be worth considering hiring a creative agency:

1. You Lack the Resources

Limited means, accessibility, or availability can make executing your strategy difficult. A creative agency can provide you with the infrastructure you need to support your strategy.

2. You Lack the Knowledge

A creative agency is staffed by expert creators who possess the skills and expertise to create various types of content, and most importantly, adhere to best practices.

3. You Lack the Bandwidth

If your team is occupied with other projects, your marketing projects may be delayed or pushed to the back burner. A creative agency can help you produce quality content consistently and at scale.

4. You’re Not Getting Results

If your current marketing strategy isn't delivering the desired results, a creative agency can advise on how to tweak, improve, or revise it.

If you're uncertain about whether a creative agency can assist you, consider the following criteria to decide if you need one at all and whether to hire an agency or a freelancer.

How Do You Find a Creative Agency?

Based on our experience working with numerous brands over the past decade, we understand the obstacles and challenges that can arise when searching for the right agency. To help you find the best partner, we've put together some tips to ensure a seamless journey.

Know what you’re trying to achieve.

It's not necessary for you to have a specific creative idea in mind when hiring a creative agency (after all, that's often the reason for seeking one), but it's crucial to have a clear understanding of your goals. The better you define your objectives, the easier it will be for your agency to develop the creative solution you need. Of course, it's also perfectly fine to enlist an agency's help in guiding your strategy if you're uncertain of your needs. However, it's important to avoid approaching an agency with no idea of what you're looking for.

Look for someone in your industry.

Finding the right creative agency for your needs can seem overwhelming, with so many options available. However, there are agencies that specialize in specific industries, like B2B tech, and can provide tailored solutions based on their intimate knowledge of the landscape. To start your search, consider asking colleagues and friends for recommendations, or simply do a Google search. Keep in mind that although a local agency might be more convenient, a better fit for your needs could be found outside your immediate area. With the help of technology, collaborating with agencies remotely is easier than ever before, so don't let distance be a limiting factor in your decision.

Look for demonstrated results.

A reputable agency should have a strong portfolio that includes case studies highlighting their results for clients, not just the way the work looks. When reviewing their work and client list, you can gain an understanding of their creative style and approach. It's best if they have experience working in your industry or have completed campaigns similar to what you're looking for. But if you don't see what you're looking for, and you like their work, you can always reach out to ask for more examples.

Design, especially brand design as we specialize in, is a service that transcends industries. Much of the process involves extracting your Brand Core, developing a brand strategy, and leveraging that in the best possible way for your specific scenario.

Find out if they share their expertise.

A reputable agency is committed to advancing its industry, and it should exhibit its proficiency in various ways, such as through blog posts, articles, books, guest contributions, or appearances in industry publications. Their readiness to share their knowledge and actively engage in their field is an excellent sign that they are competent and self-assured in their work.

Look at their own content.

When looking for a creative agency, it's important to consider how they present themselves through their own content. Take some time to review their website and social media profiles to get a sense of their personality, team, and values. It's important to work with people you feel comfortable with, but also with those who practice what they preach. This will give you an idea of how they might approach your project and whether they align with your brand values and vision.

Collaboration is key to success, regardless of the quality of work in a portfolio. Therefore, it is crucial to research and communicate with potential agencies to ensure that you work well together. Although you may admire an agency's illustration style, their creative approach may not align with your vision. Alternatively, you may be impressed by both their work and values. The only way to know is by talking to them, so conducting research ahead of time is important.

We recommend interviewing a minimum of three agencies and preparing your questions in advance. This is not a formal interview but can be a relaxed and exploratory conversation, guided by a framework to help you obtain the necessary information. Here are some great questions to ask:

  • Do you have the bandwidth to take on my project? One of the first questions you should ask is whether they have the capacity to take on your project, as everything depends on the timeline. Additionally, you should inquire about the projected timeline for projects similar to yours if they do have availability.
  • How much experience do you have in my industry? It's also important to get a sense of the agency's experience in your industry, even if they don't specialize in it. This will help you gauge their knowledge base and ability to create effective campaigns for your brand.
  • Who will I be working with? Knowing who you'll be working with is important as there are many stakeholders involved in marketing. From strategy to content creation, you'll want to know how your agency approaches their work and who will be your main point of contact.
  • What does your creative process look like? It's also essential to ask about their creative process. While every agency is unique, they should all have a structured approach to getting things done efficiently. At our agency, we follow AgencyAgile-inspired processes. Make sure to ask your agency to provide a detailed walkthrough of their creative process.
  • How much work is produced by your staff vs. outsourced? Many agencies work with contracted creative partners, such as video production houses or composers. It's important to understand how much work is produced in-house versus outsourced, so you can get a sense of who your creative team will be.

Note: It's important to ensure that they're interviewing you too. A positive relationship requires mutual interest, so your agency should also be asking you questions and showing engagement. (Agencies that prioritize finding partners who are the right fit are usually a better match.)

Trust your instincts throughout the process. You want to collaborate with an agency that is approachable, proactive, and interested in establishing a long-term partnership with you. If you don't get those positive vibes from the beginning, keep looking until you find an agency that does make you feel that way.

What to Do Once You Find The Right Agency

Building a good relationship with your agency is crucial, and it's important to remember that it's a partnership where both parties must show up and do their part. Here are a few steps you can take to start off on the right foot:

If you want to learn more about our work process, feel free to check out our FAQs or contact us. We're always happy to hear about your project needs.

Kaleb Dean
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