Advertising Agency: What It Is and How To Hire One



September 14, 2021 (Updated: May 4, 2023)

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Advertising agencies are helpful assets to many businesses. They can help with large projects such as brand development, or they can assist with smaller projects like radio or television ads. No matter what type of marketing you need, chances are an ad agency can help you. In this guide, we’ll discuss what an advertising agency is, the services it provides, and how you can start the process of hiring one.

What Is an Advertising Agency?

An advertising agency is a company that handles the marketing needs of a business. A company can hire an ad agency on a long-term or short-term basis to help them develop their business and brand. No matter the length of the project, ad agencies often help on a contract basis. As part of their duties, agencies work with their current contracts while simultaneously pursuing new contracts and clients.

There are several types of ad agencies that a business can use. Those agencies include:

  • Traditional: Traditional ad agencies focus on classic forms of advertising. Those forms can include magazine ads, billboards, and radio or television ads. Most often, local companies use these agencies to advertise to their area of business.
  • Digital: Digital ad agencies focus on forms of marketing that can reach people’s screens. This can include SEO, web design, and content promotion. Companies use these agencies when they want to target a specific audience. They use digital elements to reach those audiences more easily and effectively.
  • Social media: These ad companies help clients develop their social media profiles and create content that attracts customers to their brand. Social media firms often have content creators to generate informative and engaging blogs, photos, and videos for a company’s customer base.
  • Creative boutique: Creative boutiques help companies with creative designs and services. The agency uses its skills to develop logos, copy, and advertisements for its clients. The client then receives the materials and chooses how best to use them. Companies use creative boutiques when they know how they want to advertise their business but don’t have the resources to develop the ads themselves.
  • Media buying: Media buying agencies are the exact opposite of creative boutiques. Companies use media buying agencies when they have all their ad materials but aren’t sure where or how to use them. They help companies place their advertisements and content in the most beneficial spot. They also consult companies on what time of day they should advertise to gain the largest viewership.
  • Full-service: Full-service ad agencies do it all. They can give companies traditional television ads, SEO assistance, and social media help. Most often, companies use full-service agencies when they want the company to do everything for them. Full-service ad firms generally take on marketing projects from beginning to end, which can make the process very easy for their clients.

What Does an Advertising Agency Do?

The work that ad agencies perform for businesses depends on a few different factors, including:

  • The client’s marketing goals
  • The length of the project
  • The client’s advertising budget

Each type of ad agency can also provide you with different services depending on what it specializes in. For example, a traditional ad agency might focus on how to attract local customers. It determines the best marketing strategies for the area and where to place the advertisements. Conversely, a social media agency doesn’t have to worry so much about where to place its ads. It will probably focus instead on content creation and make sure customers hear about the company’s brand.

But no matter what type of agency you use, they all approach projects similarly. The actions that advertising agencies perform for projects include:


First, ad agencies will assess a client based on its contract goals. The agency takes a look at the company’s brand, its competition level, and its current target audience. Then the agency determines how to implement an effective campaign to fulfill the company’s needs. This can include an action plan on how to approach the contract’s goals. It can also provide an idea of where to advertise the business and a project timeline.


Once the agency has finished its assessment, it presents its plans to the company or business. During the presentation, the agency often tells the company about its ideas and how those plans can fulfill the company’s goals. If there is supporting evidence for its decisions, the agency will also present research to help explain them. Other agencies might even create examples of content, logos, or web designs to give the company an idea of how the finished advertisements might look.

Depending on the situation, it’s possible that an ad agency may switch the order of the presentation and assessment steps. For example, if the agency is attempting to sell its services to a company in order to secure a contract, it might present its ideas first and then assess the company.


The creation step is when the agency enacts its project plan. It often uses this time to create social media content, blog posts, or advertisements, depending on the services it provides. Usually, copywriters and graphic designers complete this work. A project manager or team lead oversees the creation and makes sure the final products match the client’s needs.


Finally, once everything is complete, it’s time for the ad agency to roll out the created material. During the implementation step, the ad agency focuses on delivering advertisements to consumers and finishing its contract. This might include buying ad time on TV stations, finalizing social media posts, or starting an email ad campaign.

Once the agency finishes this step, the contract is complete. The company then decides if it would like to renew the contract for another project.

Why Should a Business Hire an Advertising Agency?

An advertising agency can help a lot of companies and businesses. If you’re still trying to decide whether an ad agency is right for you, consider these benefits:

Business Partnership

When you work with an ad agency, you essentially gain another set of experts to help you and your business. The agency can give you important and honest feedback. If the agency thinks something won’t work, it’ll often let you know. But an ad agency can also help you brainstorm new ideas. Once it understands your brand and major goals, the agency can collaborate with you and help you generate effective marketing campaigns.

Strong Expertise

Over the course of their work, most agencies have developed a strong understanding and expertise in the advertising field. When you work with a reputable ad agency, especially one that’s been around for a while, you can trust their advice. The ad agency may also possess unique ideas for marketing your products or services.

Knowledge of Trends

In addition to tactical knowledge, expertise also gives ad agencies an impressive knowledge of trends. Consumers are constantly receiving their content from new websites or devices, and it’s up to ad agencies to understand what devices, websites, or social media platforms are most popular. It’s also helpful to know what people are currently talking about. Is there a new meme that customers are laughing at? Is there a new social media challenge that’s taken off? Advertising agencies will know the answers to these questions, and they’ll help you use those trends to your benefit.

It’s important to have a sound knowledge of trends and where to place your content. When you use that knowledge, you can increase your conversion rate and generate customers more efficiently. Though ad agencies can help you with that, CopyPress also offers an eBook to start learning about the content marketing pyramid, which you can download and browse for free.

“CopyPress gives us the ability to work with more dealership groups. We are able to provide unique and fresh content for an ever growing customer base. We know that when we need an influx of content to keep our clients ahead of the game in the automotive landscape, CopyPress can handle these requests with ease.”

Kevin Doory

Director of SEO at Auto Revo

Save Money and Resources

A survey conducted by Deloitte in 2016 discovered that 59% of businesses use outsourcing as a cost-cutting tool. That means that companies hire B2B companies like ad agencies to save them money in the long run.

When you hire an ad agency, your company might spend less money on marketing overall because you’re paying for the services of a company that already has the resources it needs. If your business needs to acquire its own resources and personnel in order to market your products, it could cost a lot more.

The same survey discovered that 57% of companies also use outsourcing to focus on their own business development. That means that companies can use their resources on important goals and projects while the ad agency focuses on the businesses’ marketing.

How Much Does It Cost To Hire an Advertising Agency?

As discussed earlier, the amount of work an advertising agency does for your company depends on what you need from them. It’s the same for pricing. How much you need to pay an ad agency depends on the services you need and the length of your contract. Here are some breakdowns of agency prices depending on the project:

Long-Term Projects

Strategic outsourcing can be a cost-cutting measure, but if you hire an ad agency to work for you long term, your marketing expenses might be pricier. When a company wants an ad agency to help strategize and run its marketing campaigns, there might be an onboarding cost. Onboarding is when the agency researches the company and understands how best to advertise for it. Agency onboarding can sometimes cost a company $10,000 to $20,000.

Once the long-term project actually starts, there are generally even more costs. This is where you and the agency work together to find a suitable pricing system. Will you pay the agency once the job is complete? Will you pay them a monthly fee or a fixed fee upfront? These are the questions that you and the agency will talk about before finalizing the contract. It’s possible the agency might have a system it already uses and you’ll just have to negotiate the final price.

Short-Term or Monthly Projects

If you decide to use an agency for smaller, more focused marketing, your overall costs may be more manageable. Here are some prices for smaller marketing projects averaged from 10 marketing companies:

  • Organic social media marketing: $3,500 per month.
  • Paid social media marketing: $4,200 per month.
  • Content marketing: $5,200 per month.
  • SEO: $2,000 per month.
  • Pay-per-click ads: $6,000 per month.
  • Website building: $4,500 one-time fee.
  • Marketing strategy: $3,400 per strategy, not including onboarding.

Media Buying

Lastly, if you use a traditional ad agency or a media buying agency, it might charge you a percentage of the media fees. That means if you spend $100,000 on TV ad time, the agency could take a percentage of that money. The amount the agency takes can vary, but a general range is anywhere from 3% to 15%. Agencies often take a percentage of the fee because they’re the ones who pay the media platform directly and you reimburse them. It’s also possible there might be additional platform fees that the agency will also ask you to cover.

How To Hire an Advertising Agency

Now that you understand more about advertising agencies and what they do, let’s talk about how to hire them. Here’s a list of steps you can use to hire an ad agency that’s right for you:

1. Figure Out Your Advertising Goals

Before you contact an ad agency, it’s important to figure out why you want one. It’s good to first determine your advertising goals and why you think they’ll help your company. Some advertising goals might include:

  • Increased brand awareness.
  • Larger social media following.
  • More awareness of new product or service release.
  • Higher conversion rate.

The better you understand your ad goals, the easier it will be for you to talk with an ad agency. Knowing what you’re focused on can also help you figure out how to track and manage your goals. For instance, if you want a higher conversion rate on your website, you can track your conversions using specialized software. As you watch your goals advance, you can see the effectiveness of the ad agency’s work.

2. Know Which Type of Agency You Want

When you decide on a specific type of agency you want to use, it can help you narrow down your list of choices. Once you know what your advertising goals are, you can generally determine which type of agency works best. But it’s possible that you might still need to figure out a few details.

Let’s say that you want to create a radio ad for your business. You could use a traditional advertising agency that specializes in marketing on television and radio. Alternatively, you could use a full-service agency that can help you with radio ads and other advertising if you need it. You could even decide to hire two ad agencies: a creative boutique to help you make the ad and a media buying agency to help you air it.

So how do you decide which type of agency you want to use? There are a number of things to consider. For instance, larger ad agencies generally cost more than smaller ones. However, your choice also depends on your future marketing goals. Let’s say a radio ad is just the beginning. What if this is just a test to see if you should do even more with your marketing? Then maybe a full-service agency is best. It can help you with the radio ad and then help you with more projects in the future.

Before settling on the type of agency you want to use, consider all the variables, including cost, project length, and the overall future of your business. If an ad agency can help you with more than just this one project, it might be the best option.

3. Ask The Right Questions

After you’ve identified a list of possible ad agencies, it’s helpful to talk with them. Figure out exactly what kind of work they perform and how they can help you. A great way to do this is by asking them strategic questions. Some of those questions include:

  • What industries have you worked with?
  • Do you have any examples of your past work?
  • How do you measure the results of your campaigns?
  • Do your employees have any special certifications?
  • How is your pricing structured?

When you ask these questions, you can narrow down your list of candidates. See which agencies will answer and talk about these topics with you. Compare their answers to what your company needs.

4. Work With The Agency To Develop a Budget

When developing a budget, it’s important to work with the agency on this plan. Creating a budget together can help you eliminate any miscommunication. It can also help you accurately estimate certain costs. Most ad agencies want repeat business from their clients, so they’ll be honest with you about what you want to achieve versus what you can afford.

5. Ensure They Deliver Reports

It’s important for advertising agencies to report metrics during the campaign. Metrics and data can help you assess the campaign’s progress and determine if you need to make adjustments. Before you use an ad agency, check to make sure it can deliver certain reports such as:

  • Campaign revenue.
  • Conversions.
  • Click-through rates.
  • Content quality scores.
  • Return on investment.

Check with the ad agency you want to hire and see which numbers or metrics it can provide you. It’s possible not all of them will be necessary depending on your ad goals, but it’s important to know what the agency can offer.

Top Advertising Agencies

Here are the top five advertising agencies taken from The Manifest’s top 100 list:


Screenshot of Moburst's homepage.

Image via Moburst

Moburst is a digital advertising agency that specializes in mobile app marketing. The agency helps clients make their apps look appealing to customers through ads, influencers, and app store optimization. It also offers services like consulting, media buying, and video production. Moburt’s main offices are in New York, but its employees can help clients around the globe.


Screenshot of Smartsite's homepage.

Image via Smartsites

Smartsites is another ad agency that focuses on digital marketing. The agency helps clients with web development, SEO practices, and pay-per-click ads. The employees use their skills to help companies make their websites more searchable and accessible. Its primary offices are in New Jersey, but the agency mainly helps clients virtually.


Screenshot of ThreeSixtyEight's homepage.

Image via ThreeSixtyEight

ThreeSixtyEight is a full-service advertising agency that helps clients with digital marketing. The agency has employees who are experienced in SEO, branding, web development, and social media. Its office is stationed in Louisiana, but the agency can help clients all over the world.

The SEO Works

Homepage of the advertising agency, SEOWorks.

Image via The SEO Works

The SEO Works is a digital advertising agency based in England. The services it provides include SEO, pay-per-click ads, social media advertising, and web and app design. The agency also offers a free website review where it can inform people on how their current website is performing.

The Bureau of Small Projects

Screenshot of the Bureau's homepage.

Image via The Bureau of Small Projects

The Bureau of Small Projects is an advertising agency in California. Its main services are branding, content creation, marketing, and web development. Though it helps all types of businesses, the agency also specializes in assisting nonprofits and startups.

An advertising agency can be helpful to many businesses. Whether you want to create a new television ad or you hope to develop your brand, ad agencies can deliver on your goals. Once you know which type of agency to choose, you can begin executing an ad campaign that takes your company to the next level.

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