All agencies are pretty much the same, but it’s the client that makes the difference and determines the quality of output.
As David Ogilvy wrote in the seminal Confessions of An Advertising Man,
“Every client gets what they deserve.” In other words, there are no good agencies and bad agencies just good clients and bad clients.
Giving the agency a great brief is a must but that, in and of itself, is not enough to unleash its creativity.
The most important thing a client can do is to take the lead and inspire the agency and to do that, they need to start with setting the bar really high.
Agencies, consciously or unconsciously, assess the client’s “comfort zone”, and they will try to figure out what kind of ideas the client would be open to.
Streamlining the approval process is critical. There is nothing agency people hate more than an approval process that drags on and on. Some clients will ask for three or, even, four ideas to be brought to the first meeting so they can cover all the bases, and then advance them simultaneously down the path of research.
A better way to approach this is to pick one horse quickly and concentrate on making that idea great.
Remember to keep approval loops tight.
Consensus is nice but it can also slow down decision-making.
Provide Clarity. There should be just a couple of people in your company who interact with the agency. Provide focus. Strategy is a sacrifice of choices, and to have a strategy rather than vague aspirations is to choose one path and eschew others.
Provide context. The more the agency understands the context for its efforts, the more likely it is to develop ideas that are genuinely fit for purpose.
Pay fairly. A bargain never really is one; you get what you pay for. Cheap agencies cost a lot more in the long run; do spend a little more for a good agency that delivers better results.
An agency does its best work when there’s a client who believes that the agency can actually solve his or her problem.