What is a virtual advertising agency anyway?

December 02nd, 2009

One of the things that has really helped us to set our agency apart is our unique business model.  It is turning into a boon for our agency time and time again.

Our agency is a virtual advertising agency.  Basically, what that means is that everyone who works for us works from  home.  That translates into lower overhead for our clients and a lower hourly cost to our clients.  It also means a more focused utilization of our clients’ marketing dollars since we don’t have to pay for receptionists, building rent, fancy conference rooms, furniture, office equipment, etc.

Why virtual, you ask?  It’s funny, but after years of working at larger, full service advertising agencies and managing some of the agencies’ larger accounts, I realized that many of my longtime clients had never even set foot in the agency.  I even had a client with whom I worked overseas for years and the two of us had a fabulous working relationship–even though we never met!

So, who needs an office!?  Between the power of the Internet and just picking up the telephone now and again, there was really no need.  Unless it was just to keep tabs on everybody and make certain that they are doing their work.  But I realized that, if you work only with self starter-types who are experienced with managing their time and who feel accountable for themselves and making certain they produce the best possible work, you don’t need to manage someone in person.  They can manage themselves as long as they meet their deadlines.

As much as I love having face time with the people I’m working with, you can just as easily pick up the phone and call someone to chat as to walk into their office to chew the fat.  And when face-to-face brainstormings are needed, there are plenty of coffee shops stocked with caffeine and sugar laden goodies that serve as awesome conference rooms for creative types.

With much less water cooler gossiping and more concentrated, less interrupted computer time, I find that we are more productive and produce a better end product.  That also means a faster turn time and better strategy and creative for our clients, which they love.  Go figure!

The other nice thing, that I’m seeing is really helping us to win business, is our ability to piece together work teams to meet the needs of our clients rather than just staffing teams based upon who has the bandwidth that is already on-staff.  Since we don’t have any full-time employees, we can matchmake a powerhouse team based upon their experience.  For example, we just won the Fredericksburg CVB account partly because we were able to build a team to work on their account with an average of 15+ years of tourism expertise and experience.  They were truly impressed!

The current economic situation has also helped us tremendously.  Marketing and advertising dollars are often the first place that companies look to trim their spending when the going gets tough.  1DayBanner.com Next Day Banners may serve as a good marketing tool as well. Needless to say, moving to an agency that is full service like a larger agency but has lower overhead, lower costs, straight-laced billing (no confusing line items and unexpected charges due to larger agency administrative and overhead expenses), more experienced teams with outstanding creative product is pretty much a no brainer!  Or at least many of our current clients find that it is!

So that’s the scoop on a virtual advertising agency.  Not that other industries couldn’t operate as effectively on a virtual platform.  Do you know of another successful virtual company?  Do tell!

For more information on virtual advertising agencies, I recommend this great article.

–Tracy Marlowe

  • http://www.thedrewagency.com Andrew Short

    Hi Tracy. I read with great interest your article about the benefits of a virtual advertising agency and I’m always impressed to hear so many success stories over in the US with how this business model is widely accepted and used.

    We recently set up a ‘virtual’ advertising agency in the UK called The Drew Agency. We specialise in consumer health and healthcare brands. Like you guys, we worked for many of the large ad agencies in the UK, US & Europe during our time but realised that no-one was offering this ‘virtual’ service here in the UK, so, after 12 months of research and setting up systems and support services in all the sectors that an ad agency needs, we launched The Drew Agency in October 2009.

    It is still early days and we’re not on the same level as the likes of Ogilvy that we used to work for but interest is growing. As you know it’s a sound business platform that offers clients the best that the industry can offer but without the overheads and debilitating contracts associated with large advertising agencies of yester-year.

    It would be interesting to compare notes and generally have a chat regarding virtual advertising, so please feel free to get in touch. We look forward to hearing from you in the near future.

    Kind Regards
    Andrew Short
    Founder & Creative Director
    The Drew Agency Ltd

    • http://www.creativenoggin.com tracymarlowe

      Thanks for your comment Andrew. It’s great to hear from another big agency defector who has seen the light, so to speak, and honed their focus in order to give clients more of what they want (great creative, streamlined systems, killer service) and less of what they don’t want (high overhead, billing that makes them feel “nickled and dimed”–as many new clients have told me, cumbersome processes).

      I have to say that the greatest thing of all about this model for me is that I’m really enjoying my work like I haven’t in years. I love the people I work with, our clients are great and really “get it” and we’re getting better work done for our clients, which is truly what this is all about.

      Please stay in touch and keep us abreast of your success!


      • http://www.thedrewagency.com Andrew Short

        Thanks Tracy, great to hear from you. We will indeed keep in touch and let you know how it all unfolds. I think there is a great opportunity to compare practice and send articles associated with this business model between us.

        There have been some recent articles written by procurement officers that the traditional agency model is out dated, over priced with many grey areas that need to be transparent. I think the world of traditional advertising is now changing and it feels good to be part of the change that will offer clients a better deal, better creativity and value for money.

        I agree, I have never enjoyed my work more than I do now and I know that rubs off onto the work that you present to clients and they want to be part of that ‘fun’ culture.

        Keep in touch

        Kind regards

  • Alex Hendler

    I’m adding an “amen” as well from another big agency defector. Good luck, Andrew & Tracy. Maybe someday we’ll have to set up a ‘virtual’ holding company to own all of our virtual agencies!

  • http://www.pinkfuzzyslippersinc.com Donna Williams

    Hi Tracy,
    I enjoyed your article! I defected from my executive creative director job eight years ago to open my own solo freelance agency. As a freelance professional, I am happy to hear that there are such things called “virtual agencies,” and that they are doing so well! I would love to be able to contact some of them to invite them to view my portfolio site, but haven’t had any luck in finding a virtual agency roster. Does such a thing exist?

    Best regards,
    Donna Williams
    Pink Fuzzy Slippers, Inc.

    • http://www.creativenoggin.com tracymarlowe

      Hi Donna,

      To my knowledge, there is not an “official roster” or directory of virtual agencies. If you decide to start one, let us know!

      We get contacted pretty regularly by individuals looking to submit their portfolios. If you are interested, please send your portfolio to our Creative Director, Trish Rawls at trish at creativenoggin.com. She stays on top of our network of resources.

      Glad you enjoyed the article.

      Take care,