Ogilvy’s Open Letter.

Open Letter to a client in search of an agency.

Sir or Madam,

If you have decided to hire a new agency, permit me to suggest a simple way to go about it.

Don’t delegate the selection to a committee of pettifoggers. They usually get it wrong. Do it yourself.

Start by leafing through some magazines. Tear out the advertisements you envy, and find out which agencies did them.

Watch television for three evenings, make a list of the commercials you envy, and find out which agencies did them.

You now have a list of agencies. Find out which are working for your competitors, and thus unavailable to you.

By this time you have a short list. Meet the head of each agency and his Creative Director. Make sure the chemistry between you and them is good. Happy marriages fructify, unhappy ones don’t.

But don’t ask to meet the working-level people who would be assigned to your account. You might find them congenial, but have no way of judging their talent. Or you might find them repulsive- some of the most talented people are. A prospective client once passed up an opportunity to hire Ogilvy & Mather because the very able copywriter to whom I introduced him had long hair.

Ask to see each agency’s six best print ads and six best television commercials. Pick the agency whose campaigns interest you the most.

Ask what the agency charges. If it is 15 per cent, insist on paying 16 per cent. The extra one per cent won’t kill you, but it will double the agency’s normal profit, and you will get better service. Whatever you do, don’t haggle over the agency’s compensation, I know a big corporation which insists that its agencies negotiate terms of business with its Purchasing Department, as though they were selling office furniture. Would they do this with lawyers and accountants?

Insist on a five-year contract This will delight the agency- and protect you from being resigned if one of your competitors ever tries to seduce them with a bigger budget.

– From Ogilvy on Advertising

Although times have changed a bit, and some of these guidelines pertain to bigger agencies instead of smaller studios, this Open Letter still sets the standards high. Replace the words “magazine” and “television” with “the web,” and you’re good to go.

Who knew Ogilvy would still be relevant nearly 30 years later… especially when so much has changed in this industry?


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