How to Compare Ad Agencies

By: Gina Lee De Freitas

Choosing an ad agency is no easy feat. It’s no surprise that a lot of major companies are regularly reviewing or changing agencies in a quest to find the perfect fit. In a world where it feels like transparency is becoming harder to come by, what qualities should you look for and how do you find the right agency for you?

The good news is, it doesn’t have to be hard. Here are some characteristics to consider when comparing and selecting your next ad agency: 

1. Book of Business
2. Portfolios + Case Studies
3. Services + Expertise
4. Chemistry + Communication
5. Transparency + Ethics
6. Budget + Value Added


1. Book of Business

When comparing ad agencies, one of the most important starting points is examining each organization’s book of business. Looking at the types of clients and industries serviced as well as the comparative size of their business partners can provide insight into the agency’s capabilities and strengths, as well as their limitations.

2. Portfolios + Case Studies

Requesting a work sample package or digital portfolio gives each agency the opportunity to showcase their work and gives an overview of past successes. In addition, case studies can highlight projects, client relationships, and business development in greater detail. It allows the chance to discover whether the agency has done work similar to what you’re currently looking for and if they’ll satisfy your advertising needs.

3. Services + Expertise

Services offered by different advertising agencies can vary vastly. When comparing two or more organizations, technical expertise in those service areas should also be closely examined according to your needs and goals. Agencies are not “one-size fits all” and finding the one that fits those specific needs and goals is key.

4. Chemistry + Communication

Reviewing how internal team members feel about potential agency partners will be key in the decision-making process. Ensuring collaborators “mesh” is essential to a positive and productive working relationship. Moreover, lines of communication should be delineated early to verify their feasibility and effectiveness. Conducting a chemistry check early in the process can provide a lot of clarity and avoid headaches in the future.

5. Transparency + Ethics

References and reputation should have significant bearing on the comparison. Advertising agencies that do not have transparent activities or those that have a history of dishonest or unethical business practices should be removed from consideration. You want your agency to be an extension of your team, a trustworthy partner.

6. Budget + Value Added

As a concluding factor, pricing, whether by retainer, hours or another metric, will play a part in the final ad agency selection. True value added should be quantified as much as possible and measured regularly against key performance indicators for accurate cost-benefit analysis.


Choosing an agency is a big decision, it shouldn’t be made lightly. With the tips above, however, the process of assessing and committing to an agency should be an easier, and smoother, process.

About Ideas Made Measurable!

At IMM, creating action isn’t just what we do — it’s who we are. Our agency is built to deliver full service capabilities while also delivering measurable results. Big data is the marketing buzzword everyone talks about but few understand. We are here to explain in plain English how data-driven, bottoms-up marketing strategies can help generate leads, drive sales and build your brand. We leverage the expertise of the staff at IMM, a data-driven, full-service digital advertising agency based in Boulder, Colorado.

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