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How to Get More Out of Your Ad Agency Retainer

1. Plan ahead.

When you sign a retainer with an advertising agency, set up a tentative, monthly calendar of focus so both you and the agency have clear, measurable objectives. Too often, hours in retainers go unused because of lack of focus and direction. On the flip side, if not well directed, retainer hours can become consumed with task-oriented busy work.

Use the creative minds you have on retainer for the true branding, marketing, design and public relations assistance you need. By setting goals for each month, everyone wins – the agency is playing to its strengths and your company is moving towards its marketing goals.

2. Read your status reports and keep monthly meetings.

Most agencies give periodic status reports and hold monthly meetings with clients they are on retainer with. These meetings are critical. They push projects along, identify problems and also bring out new and exciting things the agency can do to promote your company. Missing these meetings can equate to lapsed deadlines, projects halting due to inactivity or, in the worst-case scenario, a missed opportunity.

Status reports are equally important, and should go out roughly once a week depending on account activity. Status reports alert you to approvals the agency might be waiting on, assets needed to finish up projects and deadlines that are approaching. Smart clients use these status reports as their marketing and advertising “to-do” lists for the following week.


3. Connect your agency’s account service team with the right point people in your company.

Often, when an ad agency is on retainer with a client, they begin to work as an extension of that company’s marketing department. In some cases, they actually are that company’s marketing department! If marketing goals are outlined and met by both parties, this can be a great working relationship, but if  the ad agency’s staff spends their billable time trying to track down answers, everyone gets frustrated.

From the very beginning, outline who in your organization will serve as the point person for the ad agency. Clear direction from the company to the ad agency means work can run smoothly and deadlines can be met without projects going over budget.


4. At the onset, give a budget for special projects outside of retainer work.

Special projects, campaigns, and events come up throughout the year. Sometimes, these initiatives were not factored into the retainer agreement a company has with an agency. When this happens, your agency account executive must take the time to meet with the internal operations team and come up with an estimate for each individual project.

A bit of advice – if you know your parameters ahead of time (budget, assistance that will be needed, creative considerations, etc.) speak up at the onset! This saves both you and the agency valuable time, and will save you money in the long run.  If there is a bottom line concerning budget (there usually is!), it’s best for the agency to know this upfront so they can help you get the most bang for your buck, crafting a strategy of must-have materials. Relaying this information early on ensures desired results are achieved well within budget.