Friday, December 28, 2007

Think globally. Or something like that.

There are any number of good reasons to hire an ad agency from out of town. The local shop isn’t automatically always the best choice. Geeze, one of our clients is 1,200 miles away, but I’d like to think that the quality of the work, the service and the relationship is why they take a pass on the dozens of good agencies between here and there.

And I don’t believe that an agency in, say, New York is automatically better than one in Washington (although it stands to reason that an exciting city like New York will attract top talent in all fields― including finance, law and various segments of the adult entertainment industry).

But I am baffled as to why a local enterprise ― like a shopping center or a sports team ― that depends on local support will do their own spending with an out-of-town agency.

For example, Tyson’s Corner Mall has an agency from Pennsylvania. How many people from Pennsylvania shop at Tyson’s Corner? It’s not like they couldn’t or can’t find anybody local to do the work, and there sure isn't anything special about the work they are getting from up north. Rosenthal Partners and Adworks were their previous two agencies, and both of them did work that was far better than the current shop if you ask me. I don’t know why that piece of business went out of town, but I’ll bet if I lived in Northern Virginia and told the marketing manager at Tyson’s Corner that I did my Christmas shopping in Pennsylvania, he or she would hit me with a shovel.

The Washington Post works with a local shop now, but it wasn’t too many years ago that they had a New York agency. Sure, you can make an argument that the Post isn’t exactly just a local business, but how many of their advertising dollars come from the local business community? Most of ‘em I’ll betcha. If I had a local retail business and told the advertising manager of the Post that I spent my Christmas advertising budget on the D.C. edition of the New York Times, he or she would hit me with a shovel.

I’m not saying a local business should only work with a local agency. Not at all. Several years ago, the Ad Club ran some campaign about how your mother-in-law should be out of town, not your ad agency. I thought it was goofy, not just because of the trite headline, but because it didn’t present any substantive reason for hiring a local agency other than proximity. And there are plenty of good reasons. Like Arnold, Rosenthal, Adworks, Smith+Gifford, Redhead, August Lang, Design Army, and on and on. (Plus, of course, Nasuti + Hinkle Creative Thinking.) Pick up an Addy showbook and see for yourself.

Blind loyalty to a zip code doesn’t necessarily make good business sense. But if you rely on the local market for your business, why think about doing business with the local market?

So hire the best agency you can find. But don’t assume that the best are somewhere else. Or at least don’t get too bent out of shape if your customers take their money out of the market. Like to Pennsylvania.

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