Creative Agencies and Their Differences

February 17, 2016

Have you ever wondered about the differences between marketing and advertising agencies? I have. After reading multiple articles, I still find it difficult to distinguish what each type of agency does differently. COHN is, of course, a marketing agency, so I’m learning quite a lot about the culture and workload at this type of agency.

Although there are no clear-cut lines of what only a marketing or advertising agency can do, here is an insider’s perspective from someone who has spent time at both.

Team structure is different

Account Service: At most marketing agencies, the account services team is like a small advertising agency for their client. The exceptions to this are art direction and design, but account services can be looked at as one-half client relations, one-quarter strategy focused, and one-quarter copywriting. Whereas, at an ad agency, the work is more segregated. The account services team focuses more on client relations and communication, the strategy is reserved for the account planners (traditional and digital), and the copywriting is left to the creatives.

Public Relations: At some marketing agencies you’ll find public relations is a part of the mix. However, ad agencies typically do not have an in-house PR team; instead, they usually work in conjunction with one. Having an in-house PR team can be very beneficial to an agency. This way the message is easier to control, internal communication between PR and the rest of the agency is in sync, and there is simply a more diverse talent pool contributing to the agency.

Digital: For both types of agencies, a digital team can mean having a variety of tech-savvy individuals working together on several projects. This can include digital producers, SEO specialists, web developers, social media experts, or a combination of these roles. Digital producers can work on more than just the scope of a project in terms of timeline and budget. For example, they might also be the go-to SEO person. Other agencies might outsource their developers for economic reasons, or some agencies may use a CMS, like WordPress, to create and maintain sites, which do not always require extensive code.

Creative: The visual creative teams are typically comprised of art directors and designers and are a staple in both types of full-service agencies. These people are in charge of the visual aspects of a campaign, or any task that should be aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

Which is for you: advertising agency or marketing agency?

As an employee, the pros and cons of each type of agency come down to personal preference. If you enjoy a more flexible workday and having to change what you are working on at the flip of a switch, then advertising is the spot for you. If you like more of a routine with a splash of chaos, marketing is the way to go. Marketing and advertising are as creative as the talent and work allow it to be.

Of course, the client roster makes a big difference, too. If you want to work for a marketing or an ad agency that only services healthcare and financial verticals the work can potentially have stricter guidelines; whereas, if you work for an agency that services verticals such as cannabis, travel, or food and beverage, then the industries allow for more artistic flexibility.

Clients looking for an agency, on the other hand, are probably best suited looking at their specific needs and identifying a likeminded partner. Having completed my first month at COHN, the workload here is diverse and exciting. New projects are hatched every day, and the organized chaos is fun.

In the end, whether you’re an employee or a client, choosing between a marketing agency and an ad agency is simply a point of personal preference. Just be sure to choose one as talented as COHN.

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