DIY home improvement shows are awesome. My wife and I can spend hours on a weekend watching a home renovation show. We especially love the ones that feature some weekend-warrior attempt to build a dream bathroom, only to find him or herself hip deep in a major mess.
In business, DIY advertising is worse than a home reno fail.
DIY advertising is more like a DIY haircut. It never looks good. It’s embarrassing. It will take a long time to fix. And, your next trip to the salon will be expensive.
I’ve recently encountered several situations where advertisers were going to take a DIY approach. The most recent example involved a prospective client. After reviewing at least 3 ad agencies, and having worked with two others in the past, this advertiser informed us that they were taking everything in house. They are actually going to invest in creative staff, design software, new computers, media buyers, media planners, media software, ratings data and market research.
The cost will be relatively astronomical. In a real way, this advertiser is starting a new business that is unrelated to their core competency. Investing in new staff, new software, new equipment, etc. could add up to tens of thousands of dollars a year (or more)! And there won’t be any return!
If someone were to propose giving themselves a new haircut, I’d yell “NO!” So, if given the chance, I propose these three questions to people considering a DIY approach to advertising.
Why make the investment? Ad agencies have, over time, invested in staff, software, professional training, equipment, etc. Why duplicate the effort? DIY advertisers are tempted by the idea of saving agency fees, commissions, mark ups, etc. But as anyone in the agency business can tell you, our margins aren’t huge. A DIY advertiser makes an investment for which there will almost certainly be no return. Whereas the investments ad agencies make are scaled over multiple clients and the return has grown over time. Neither of which are luxuries do-it-yourselfers will enjoy.
Can you afford the learning curve? In addition to the investment in people, software, research, etc., newbies make mistakes. Advertising mistakes are expensive. In addition to costly slip-ups, a DIY approach to advertising will create opportunity costs.
On the media side of an agency, planners and buyers handle multiple accounts. The agency likely has clients in different categories with varying budgets and different needs. As a result, planners and buyers are working on a daily basis in the media market. They will have a vastly more informed perspective than an in-house media person who only has one perspective.
Similarly, on the creative side, agencies work with vendors on new ideas, on negotiating price, etc.
A DIY advertiser lives in an echo chamber with only their own voice to provide feedback. Whereas ad agencies have institutional memories and the combined years of experience of the entire staff. Frankly, the learning curve is one that won’t likely be overcome.
Don’t you deserve better? If you had a car accident, you’d get the best body shop you can afford. If you were sick, you’d want the best doctors. You want a really good tax professional. You want a good plumber and electrician. You want someone who knows what they are doing to cut your hair. So why not a professional ad agency?
Advertisers are good at whatever it is that they do. Car dealerships, hospitals, drug companies, local restaurants, etc., remain in business by being good. And smart business professionals rely on experts to fill in areas that are not part of their professional expertise. Advertising is a professional expertise.
If you believe your organization is worth it, you invest in the right resources. Before someone is tempted by a perceived quick-fix and inexpensive solution, they should ask themselves: Don’t I deserve a professional ad agency?
Advertisers can take the DIY approach to advertising. The risks outweigh the reward. Just like attempting to give yourself a haircut…even a little trim….ends in disaster.