Advertising Agency Process and Profitability

The Right Process = Advertising Agency Profitability

download-processWarning: While not as sexy as a new Instagram video plan, this in-depth 3,500-word post is all about advertising agency profitability.

OK, OK, as an ex-agency CEO, I will admit that profitability is rather sexy. Sexier, that is, than Instagram.

By the way, if this post is too long for your online perusal, I’ll send you a PDF version. Just email me at 


A bit of background. When I worked at Saatchi & Saatchi one of the accounts I ran was Northwest Airlines. At that time, a time when airlines spent big bucks, their media budget was $60 million per year. At the standard 15% commission, we generated $9 million in agency revenues. $9 million! Ah, the good old days. Days when an agency minted bucks even if some of our processes were a bit wanky. That isn’t the case anymore.

Today, process: the art and science of managing client relations, agency staff, expenditures and time, is critical to your growing profitability.

A Wonderful Process Plan

I have a Texas advertising agency client that isn’t anywhere near as profitable as they should be. Their problem isn’t having the right clients or clients that want great work, or clients that spend money. Their problem is not having the right workflow process to ensure that these clients are profitable.

And, worse, because the agency appears to be always overworked, they don’t have the time or energy to run a smart and consistent new business program. A 24/7 program.

I built this client process plan for them and thought, why not share it? To protect the innocent, this full-service ad agency has been renamed… Wonderful Advertising. I think that these general principles and actions can be applied to any communications agency type.

The Wonderful Agency: Background

Wonderful is an integrated marketing communications agency based in Dallas. Wonderful describes itself as (from Wonderful’s Twitter profile):

“A full-service advertising and marketing agency blending traditional and non-traditional media with digital services, graphic design, and social media.”

A bit boring, but at least they’ve made a statement.

Wonderful: Management Issues

Wonderful is entering a next-stage business phase where it would like to add larger national clients to its roster. In order to do so, it would like to set up client management systems to improve its workflow efficiency and to improve and manage its client relationships and most importantly… increase agency profitability. The agency must also build a business development system that will help them entice and land the type of clients that they need for agency growth.  Read More »

Advertising Agency Recession Freakout

Advertising Agency Prosperity During A Recession – Fuhgedaboudit

Is your advertising agency ready for the next recession? Have you been thinking that the current sweet economy that has helped the small and medium-sized advertising agency market to prosper in the past couple of years was going to last forever?

Well, the time has come to fuhgedaboudit.

Early last week a smart agency client of mine asked me about the current volatility of the stock market that is driven by increasingly inept and ill-timed trade war announcements. He mentioned that his clients are getting skittish because they do not have a clear view of the future. Uncertantude is not a harbinger of growth in client marketing, advertising spending and therefore agency security.

Yesterday the stock market dropped 3% on thinking that a global recession is coming. Does this make you feel secure? Even if the market continues its up and down ride, clients will be spooked for awhile.

The Advertising Agency and Recessions

Recessions breed fear and loathing within client ranks. I know this having gone through some major recessions where worried clients lower budgets, stop programs and begin to fire and change agencies. You do not need to hear my personal history. But you should remember the ‘great recession’ of December 2007 through June 2009. The USA GDP dropped by 5.1%.

To be direct, that recession fucked the advertising industry and I am not sure that the industry, as in what it can charge clients, has ever recovered. I won’t go into detail about the recession. But, if you need a memory nudge, watch these two movies again: The Big Short and The Queen Of Versaille.

What Can You Do? Think Business Development Baby.

You know what happens to client spending and loyalty during an advertising recession. What can you do about it other the tried and mostly failed attempts of trying to convince clients that recessions are exactly the time to increase advertising branding and spending.

Well, you should now up your agency to prospect B2B marketing and spending. Get that account-based marketing program off the shelf. That means it is time to market your agency because:

  • One or more of your best clients will exit through the back door.
  • You’ve been too complacent. When business is good, advertising agencies think the good time will roll on. Not.
  • Sorry, referrals will not sustain any agency growth during a recession.
  • Good news, your competitive advertising, digital and PR agencies have been somnolent as well. They’ve given you a big marketing gap to fill.
  • “Consultants” like Accenture are smarter than agencies when it comes to managing recessions. They will eat up some business.

The recession is coming. Tomorrow? Next year? Who knows. But, I do know it is coming.

It is time to up your advertising agency marketing game. By the way, this is not my first rodeo. Here is an older blog post on recessions.

My recession marketing reading list. Go forth.

My Recession Reading List…

Do You Remember Creative Ideas?

Ah, Creative Ideas…

I grew up in advertising’s heyday. We were very much about ideas. Words. Images. Big ideas.

I am not going to babble on like so many babyboomers. I’ll just show you a fucking great idea. A brilliant use of words. Images. Timing. Emotion.

So, the next time you obsess about your Google ad, ask yourself, if there is an idea there. Algorithms are not ideas. Algorithms are not human.

Time To Kill Your Advertising Agency Blog?

Is It Time To Kill Your Advertising Agency Blog?

I’ve updated my 2017 blog post about the power of the advertising agency blog and the question of should y’all continue to go for it or kill it.

I think that this is a big question that should be reviewed every year. Another question. Would anyone miss your blog?

To help answer these, I am going to discuss the pros and cons of advertising agency blogging. The kind of content creation that has been considered an integral element in an agency’s business development program. Blogging has been a key element of an agency’s Attraction Strategy.


I have been consistently blogging since the early 2000’s. I started blogging as the CEO of my Oregon agency Citrus (I covered both advertising issues and the late 2000 recession’s effect on marketing).

The advertising agency business development blog you are currently reading has over 650 blog posts and acts as the core of my inbound marketing program. Good news for me, it fills my new client pipeline. Blogging has been very good to me.

But, but… my opinion about blogging, well at least for low volume advertising agency blogs, is that they are losing their power to attract a targeted audience, as in client leads. I see a few reasons for this.

  • There are zillions of blogs and blog posts every day. There has been a dramatic increase in the last five years.
  • There are hundreds (thousands?) of advertising agency blog posts and insights posted every week.
  • Most agencies write about the same subjects over and over.
  • Many agencies do not use online SEO tools to determine what blog post subjects will attract the most readership. I great way to do this is to look at what works for your most successful competitors.
  • Most agency blogs are boring.
  • Many client prospects are moving to podcasts and videos for their marketing information.

OK, Back To You. Should You Maintain Your Advertising Agency Blog? Or, Get Real And Just Kill It.

I look at a lot of advertising agency websites and their blogs. Many of the blogs are informative and brand building. However, way too many are just me-too blogs that actually deliver very little benefit to the agency.

The benefits should, stress should include the generation of incoming new client interest, showing that the agency Thinks Different (in a world of thousands of agency and advertising services options), help sell the agency as being on top of the advertising market, reinforces current client perceptions, demonstrates that the agency get content marketing, and demonstrates some personality and chutzpah. I call the chutzpah part… being Unignorable.

Start Here: Some Huge Blog Stats

The world really does not need another blog. As Steven Pressfield says in the title of his must-read book: Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: Why That Is And What You Can Do About It”.

To help put blogging in perspective, here are some numbers.

How many blogs are there? From Hosting Tribunal: To date, there are over 1.6 billion websites in the world and more than 500 milion are recognized as blogs. Their authors account for over 2 million blog posts daily.

WordPress states that “Over 409 million people view more than 21.5 billion pages each month” and “Users produce about 84.9 million new posts and 45.2 million new comments each month.” And, that’s just on the WordPress platform.

Google delivered 1768,000 results when I searched on “advertising agency blog.”

Read More »

How to Build A Winning Advertising Agency New Business Program


This is a 2019 UPDATE of 2016’s initial “How to Build A Winning Advertising Agency New Business Program” blog post. Advertising agency business development is now a 24/7 operation. Here is some advice on how to deliver.

By the way, this post currently has over 32,900 views. The post’s popularity is due to three key reasons:

1. It directly addresses a major advertising agency pain point: how to build a winning and efficient new business plan.

2. The post is well optimized for search engines and, therefore…

3. Google loves it. [FYI, my number two trafficked post is, “How To Name Your Advertising Agency – Part One” at 30,000 + views. While always rethinking their website, advertising agencies also obsess about their name. by the way, this post is also a very good cheat sheet on naming that you can steal if a client ever needs a new brand name.

“How To Build…” is all about the most important thing an advertising agency can do (while it is nurturing its current clients)… run a new business program that ensures that the agency will keep growing. Agencies are like sharks. They must keep moving forward to eat or else.

Your potential clients have over 4,000 marketing communications ‘agency’ options (other agencies, new consultancies, freelancers, even your ex-creative director…).

Therefore, any form of business development passivity on your part – sucks. If you think you are doing everything right, you probably are not. How can I say this? I never thought that all was well whilst running business development at Saatchi & Saatchi and when I owned my own agency.

Here’s my “ad”: I suggest that you give me a shout and take me up on my Corleone offer – It’s hard to refuse.

OK, Let’s Go…

When I owned Citrus, my Portland and Bend Oregon advertising agency, I woke up every morning (and even some nights) thinking hard about my agency’s business development program. I lived as if Nike, our largest client, was about to walk out the back door along with its revenues. I bet as an ad agency owner or manager you have rough nights too. One of the things I knew I could and should do was to manage this back-door issue was to have an active, I stress active, new business plan in place.

Here are some (I stress some) of the elements of my new business plan. They helped me grow my agency Citrus (with new clients like Harrah’s, LegalZoom, Nike and the Montana Lottery). I hope my insights help you grow your agency.

Execution Rules.

When I set out to write this advertising agency new business post I didn’t think that it would be this long – a warning to the ADHD types. But, advertising agency new business planning is complex and is getting more complex every day due to the rapid changes in our industry and technology. That said, the devil in business development, you know what’s coming, is in the detail. Success is all about execution.

For example, running a successful inbound biz dev program that attracts market attention must be based on a sound strategy and smart agency process if you want to run a 24/7 sales program. Staying the course is critical.

The Advertising Agency Business Plan. First Things First.

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