Defining The Agency: Agency Types, Benefits, and Limitations

What exactly does a digital agency do, and how is it different from a marketing agency or a creative agency? In this blog, we explore the differences, benefits, and limitations of different types of agencies.

Do you ever get lost or confused by the different types of agencies out there? They may call themselves a “digital” agency or “creative” agency or any number of other terms. How do you know if they are the right fit for your specific business needs?Every agency is different. Some expand or hybridize services which can cross into other categories. Others may focus only on one platform or delivery channel. Depending on which you select, you may receive very different focuses and results.Let’s review common types of agencies, including the benefits and limitations of each. A summary chart is located at the bottom for your convenience. As agencies can offer different things, it is always important to ask them what they specialize in, what they can do, and what they do not offer.

Advertising Agency

An advertising agency is a one-stop-shop for advertising your product or business. They will recommend the best ways to reach your audiences with paid promotional campaigns.

Advertising Agency Benefits

An advertising agency considers which channels to use, and how to adjust to fit the channel. Many times they have in-house creative staff to write and design the campaigns. Relationships with media outlets may allow an advertising agency to offer reduced prices on media buys.

Advertising Agency Limitations

Some advertising agencies may only focus on certain media channels (radio, television, online). As they focus on promotion only, they may neglect other aspects of marketing your business.

Branding Agency

A branding agency focuses on the creation or refreshing of your brand. A brand is more than a name or logo; it is the reputation and presence of your product or company.

Branding Agency Benefits

They want to understand your product from every angle. They want to learn about your target customers and competitors. They consider the best language and appeals to reach your audiences. They generate more than just a logo, color, or font type. They also provide the creative visual styling, strategic messaging, and guidance to help maintain brand consistency.

Branding Agency Limitations

Branding agencies may provide the brand guide and visual assets, but may leave the rest to you. Some may provide launch guidance, but may not be experts at executing the launch and preparing for what comes after it.

Creative Agency or Design Firm

Creative agencies or design firms bring high levels of creativity across a variety of platforms. Creative agencies/design firms focus on content and bringing information to life with dynamic visuals.

Creative Agency/Design Firm Benefits

A creative agency or design firm focuses on creative content development and production. This can include photography, videography, visual design, and web design. They may generate the designs that you promote through your different media channels. A creative agency or design firm may also partner with other agencies to distribute the creative.

Creative Agency/Design Firm Limitations

These agencies may not have relationships for media buys, and may not have the expertise to execute the campaigns they design.

Digital Agency

A digital agency focuses on the maximizing the use of digital screens to reach audiences. They provide strategy, creative, and technical development of screen-based products and services. Channels could include social media, web sites, paid targeted online advertising, and email. Some also provide website development, search engine advertising, search engine optimization (SEO), and e-commerce consulting services.

Digital Agency Benefits

Because they work daily in the digital space, they will be up-to-speed on the latest system updates and capabilities. They will know the best practices for each digital platform. They can provide recommendations on digital spend across your different digital channels.

Digital Agency Limitations

They only bring the on-screen expertise. If you want a comprehensive approach to marketing, a digital agency may fall short of your needs.

Marketing Agency

A full-service marketing agency provides a wide range of marketing services. While other agencies have focused specialties, a marketing agency brings those skill sets under one roof.

Marketing Agency Benefits

A marketing agency considers the full marketing mix (or the 4 Ps): product (or service), price, place, and promotion. This involves more than advertising, it is the overall approach to selling the product or service. Many will offer market research services, brand development, creative content, digital advertising, media buys, and other marketing services. They may also support customer events, community outreach, and public/media relations. Based upon a client’s business goals, a marketing agency will build the strategy and a comprehensive marketing plan. Marketing agencies also provide reporting on all relevant metrics so you can track your performance.

Marketing Agency Limitations

Because of their broad offerings, a marketing agency may not have hyper-focused expertise.

Media Agency

A media agency focuses on purchasing advertising with media outlets. They may partner with a client to buy time or placements on different media channels. This could include radio, television, print, or online placements.

Media Agency Benefits

They may be able to negotiate special deals and placements. Media agencies may offer lower prices due to volume/buying power with media outlets.

Media Agency Limitations

Most media agencies do not generate the advertisements for placement. They may encourage you to buy on specific media outlets to help meet their volume pricing agreements.

Public Relations Agency

A public relations agency focuses on influencing opinions about a company. They share relevant information with different audiences to improve public perception. This can include both internal (employee) or external (public) perspectives.

Public Relations Agency Benefits

A public relations agency can help you get greater news coverage and can create press kits for the media. They have relationships with and know/understand different press/news outlets. They develop annual reports for investors or donors, and assist with crisis management. They may plan and execute community events or awareness campaigns.

Public Relations Agency Limitations

PR agencies focus on public perception, not customer behavior (and sales). They may share the brand with audiences but don’t develop the brand itself.

Summary Chart

MELD Blog Agency TableDownload the PDF here.

So, Which is Best?

All of these agencies want to increase your visibility and, ultimately, impact sales. Consider what you may need, and find the agency that will be the right fit for you and your budget.Perhaps you have already established your marketing foundation (brand, marketing strategy, messaging, and marketing plan). If you are looking for someone to manage a part of your marketing plan, a specialized agency may be a good fit. If you need some foundational support, have a variety of needs, and want a consistent approach, investing in a marketing agency may be your best bet. Still not sure? Meld Marketing is happy to talk about your needs and see if we are a good fit. Sometimes we may not be, and we’ll provide recommendations of other agencies who may be a better match. No pressure, and no obligation. Reach out and let’s chat!

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