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Size Matters

Professional advertising help

You're ready to start thinking about creating an exciting ad campaign, but you don't know where to start. Perhaps its time you called on the pros. Advertising campaigns derive from a sophisticated technical process that requires unique training, tools and experience. Because good advertising boils complex subjects down into simple, easy-to-understand language and visuals, the process can appear elementary to the uninitiated. But it's not-and it can cost you dearly if homespun efforts eat up a limited budget and don't get results. Fortunately for you, there are plenty of experienced professionals around to help.

The Big Time

Advertising agencies-also called marketing communications companies-come in all sizes, from megabucks corporations with offices worldwide and midsized agencies with staffs of 50 to the two- and three-person shops that use independent contractors for skills as needed. Because a campaign takes a team of specialists, each person working in his or her own arena, to produce a single ad, know from the start that it's not going to come cheap.

Let's say you're using a midsized agency. Your team may consist of an account supervisor, an account executive, a creative director, an art director, a copywriter, a media director and a media buyer, who are supported in their work by other agency personnel including a production manager and a traffic coordinator. The account execs work directly with you (the client) and the creative director to determine your strategy; the art director and copywriter create the materials; the media department places your advertising; and the agency support people make sure your ads are produced in the proper formats and get to the right media on deadline. It's easy to see why multimillion-dollar budgets are often needed to support this level of specialization.

One Piece at a Time

If you've got a limited budget, it's less expensive to buy advertising services individually rather than at a one-stop shop such as an ad agency. Your best bet is to hire a qualified creative team to produce your advertising and then place the ads on your own or with the help of a media-buying service. The most important step is to find a copywriting and design team with expertise in creating advertising for your type of product or service and reaching similar target audiences. Keep in mind that because research has been done to prove what gets results and what doesn't creative people who specialize in advertising execution know by heart what works and what won't.

To find the right experts for your ad campaign, ask local media reps and fellow entrepreneurs for referrals, consult directories for creative services, and contact local ad clubs and art directors' guilds.

Media Mavens

If you plan on placing ads in just a few media-say, your local newspaper and two directories-then you can probably do it yourself. But if your campaign involves complex media planning, such as advertising in trade magazines that target three different professional categories, you should hire a media-buying service. They'll do research, make media recommendations and negotiate for and place ads on your behalf.

If you decide to coordinate the services of a copy and design creative team and a media-buying company, you'll end up filling a role similar to that of an ad agency account executive. You'll provide the information your creative team will need to develop an effective strategy and work with your media-buying service to ensure goals and budget are met. You'll also communicate ad specifications to your creative team so your advertising fits the requirements of each publication's production department.

All in all, you'll oversee your team and coordinate the many pieces of the advertising puzzle. You'll save money along the way, and it can be a fun and exciting process, particularly when your campaign results in increased leads and sales for your new business.

This story appears in the February 2000 issue of Startups. Subscribe »