Marketers can often become “unhappy” with their agencies or find themselves needing additional resources. Have you found yourself looking for a new ad agency? You are not alone.

The last thing a brand needs is to be saddled with the status quo. Truth be told, the tools of the casino marketing trade are not as unique as we would hope. Our agency partners can help us find a way to break through the clutter of messages and breath freshness into even the most tried and true promotion.

So, how do you choose among the many agencies? How do you decide which one is going to be your partner in growth?

First, you need to ask yourself WHY you want a new agency. Be honest. Some clients want an agency that is going to wow them at every turn. Some clients want the agency to read their minds. Some clients simply don’t have the resources and need an agency to be their go to marketing team. Do you want them to be specialists or generalists? Be honest about your expectations and about how much time you can put into the relationship. Now, you can start the search.

Do your research.

Keep an eye out for creative that feels like it has a creative DNA you’d like infused in your work. Talk to those businesses about their experience working with the agency. Is the agency respected? If it’s a small or young agency, look at the background of the leadership. What did they do before this point?

Now that you have a short(-ish) list of agencies, look at their case studies. Ask for them if you don’t see them on their website. Notice if their cases match some of your challenges (even if they are not in the casino industry). At this point, you’ll start to generate a list of capabilities that are important to you which, in turn, will formulate a report card for you.

Initiate a formal process.

Going through a formal RFP process allows the agency to show you their creative breadth, how they look at success and the processes and tools that will help them help you. A solid RFP process should help you identify how an agency can deliver the formal requirements of your selection.

Now, here’s where I go off the usual playbook. The RFP process generally includes a reduction of the list to a top 3-5 agencies. Typically, a brand asks these agencies to present their capabilities (often along with creative samples) in person at the brand’s location. I think you should go to them for this step. Why? Because it will help you understand the very important qualities that never make it onto a presentation.

Are they talented?

And do they have the type of talent I need? Let’s face it, casino advertising can run the gamut of same song, different tune, or something truly unique. You want extraordinary? You won’t get it, if there is a lack of talent. More than likely, the agency pitch will include the super cool creative head of the agency, but we all know the day-to-day artists will play an important role in your account. Take time to get to know the creative team. What is the energy in the creative pit at the agency? Where are they finding inspiration as individuals and as a group?

Is there chemistry?

No, seriously. You want to know you have chemistry with the head of the agency, the creative team, and most importantly your account team. When you ask yourself if you can partner with them on projects from a car giveaway to a rebranding, you want the answer to be a resounding, “Yes!” If you don’t like them, you’ll find yourself only giving a half-hearted effort, canceling meetings and ignoring emails. Hiring an agency of record is a marriage of sorts. You’ll spend a lot of time together building a future, but much like a divorce, splitting up can be painful and expensive.

Before you go down the road of RFPs, presentations and meetings that will make your head spin, take a moment to understand what you’re really looking for.

This originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of Mississippi Gaming News.

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