Advertising and promoting your business is expensive, so itís important to get most from your advertising budget. That means understanding how to get most from your ad agency or graphic designer.
Letís start by understanding difference between agencies and designers. Typically, a designer will work on specific projects under your direction. For example, you may request an ad design for your Halloween event, and give designer your copy (the text) and party theme. You are responsible for booking ad with newspaper, getting flyers printed, having posters made, etc.
An ad agency plays a more active role in planning promotion of your events. They can work with you to plan your ad schedule, suggest right mix of promotional tools to reach your audience, help you evaluate effectiveness of your promotions, and negotiate ad rates and printing rates on your behalf. They can also help with choosing promotional themes and writing ad copy. Of course, you will pay more for these additional services - but you may actually save money by letting your agency do your negotiations and booking.
Whether you are working with a designer or a full-service agency, it pays to plan ahead. If you can plan your advertising a year in advance you should be able to lock in much better ad rates. Leaving a couple of extra weeks when printing flyers will save you "rush printing" charges. And giving your designer extra lead time will almost certainly get you a better looking result!
A typical small agency might require final "concept and copy" at least a week in advance of newspaper deadlines, four weeks in advance of distribution for printed materials like flyers (to avoid rush charges), and six to eight weeks in advance for complicated projects (such as die-cut and folded invitations). Many business owners donít understand why final copy is required so far in advanceÖ they ask designer to do a design, and add text later. But in a good design, text and typography are very important to look of piece. So if you want your advertising to look good, plan on providing copy when you give job to designer.
The above lead times allow time for client to proof final artwork, and make minor corrections, based on a single design. But when working with a new designer, or when promoting an important event, you may want to see several design concepts, and possibly several versions of artwork. This can add one to two weeks to schedule (more for very complex ads), and of course will cost more than a single design.
When ordering work, make sure designer understands your market and image you are going for. For example, you may look at a design and say, "Thatís not cool enough for our market." Another business manager may look at same ad and say, "Whoa, thatís way too weird for our customers." Show your designer ads you like (and donít like) to help them understand look you want for your business.
But what if you donít like designs your agency produces?
Well, you obviously shouldnít run an ad that you feel really damages your image, doesnít convey your message, or isnít what you requested. But at same time, avoid temptation to micro-manage design. You are paying your designer for their professional skills; their judgment is probably better than yours when it comes to layout, typefaces, color choices, etc. Also, if designers feel that work they do for you is going to be extensively changed, they wonít give you their best efforts.
So find an agency or designer whose work you like, and trust their design sense. If you find you consistently donít like work theyíre producing, talk to them about problem, and if necessary find another design firm. But donít spend your time trying to "fix" designs.
Itís also very important that one person from your business deals with design firm, and has final authority on all design and copy decisions (many agencies will insist on this). If a designer is getting conflicting input from several people, they canít do a good job for you. If you need to, talk about design with everyone at your business who is involved in decisionÖ but select one person to convey your feedback to design firm. (A good design firm can schedule meetings with clients where everyone can contribute ideas and feedback - as long as one person represents client when it comes to final input and decisions.) Note that this can be complicated when co-op advertisers or sponsors are involved. Typically person or company being invoiced provides input, unless they specifically designate a different person.