Should an advertising agency outsource its own branding?

ad agency branding

Is it ever a smart idea for an agency to bring in some outside help for itself?

The first agency that I’ve ever heard of outsourcing it’s own branding was the Campbell-Mithun advertising agency, Minneapolis. Campbell-Mithum had been building and reviving brands for clients since the 1930s. Back in 2004, their new CEO, Jack Rooney, decided to hire another ad agency, Cue, also of Minneapolis, for assistance.

Rooney said,”It’s a bit like heart surgery, you can’t operate on yourself.”

Now we all know that advertising agencies are their own worst clients. They hardly ever practice what they preach and are like the cobblers children who have no shoes. But, should an advertising agency ever tap an outside agency to brand/market itself?

Read the article: Agency, Heal Thyself?

About Michael Gass

Consultant | Trainer | Author | Speaker

Since 2007, he has been pioneering the use of social media, inbound and content marketing strategies specifically for agency new business.

He is the founder of Fuel Lines Business Development, LLC, a firm which provides business development training and consulting services to advertising, digital, media and PR agencies.


  1. Michael Calienes says:

    certainly an option. other people tend to see things in you that you don’t see in yourself. it’s up to the agency to decide whether that view is true, and worth exploring. i wouldn’t let external forces execute, but concept on the big idea? yes.

  2. Hmm, good question. Tough one to answer, as well.

    On the one hand, if I was a potential client and I saw the agency outsourcing, I’d be wondering if they were capable of handling my account.

    On the other, it also shows thinking outside the box and a willingness to expand their reach – so that’s positive.

    In other words – I can’t decide! 🙂

    Interesting question, for sure,

  3. Thanks for taking the time to comment Danny. It has been my experience that agencies that are great at branding their clients have a difficult time branding their agency. It’s as though they can’t see the forest for the trees. An outside perspective I think is extremely helpful.

  4. You’ve reminded me about a couple things:

    – A recent pitch for new business where part of the process was essentially an exercise in agency self-branding. You know, the “how do you stand out from other competitors” part. I think there’s something to be said for the individuality of the people who make up agency teams that only they can express. That being said, this probably applies more to smaller units than to thinking about branding larger agencies as a whole

    – When I was in university, there was always this underlying question facing the student-run agency that served local clients: “what could we do that more experienced agencies couldn’t”? The problem was a self-branding problem, that the organization had always tried to make itself out as “a real-life agency…just run by students.” That was the wrong answer. The right answer was that we were students, and could focus on a niche that other agencies couldn’t. That idea came from outside the organization. A bit of outsourcing, so to speak.

  5. I think there’s a benefit in having someone outside the agency do it: perspective. Both in terms of seeing your brand from the outside in. Also, internal resources. Client work will always be a priority over internal work so, if you’re rebranding, it’ll take longer than not.

    On the other hand, it can be a fantastic way to showcase your own strengths. I just really think it has a lot more to do with time and want, than whether it’s a good idea or not.

  6. The answer could be in the question!

    “Should an ADVERTISING agency outsource its own BRANDING?”

    Advertising and Branding are not the same thing, whilst the advertising agency could probably do there own branding, one could surmise that its not there core area of expertise, advertising is. so it makes sense to do the job properly and get an expert in branding to do it. It takes real intelligence and wisdom to know that you don’t know enough and I respect them more for that decisions then if they where to have a crack them selves.

    Possible semantic differences aside it could be a simple case of either being to busy doing what they do for others to do it for themselves or as others have mentioned they just wanted a fresh perspective on them selves and its more difficult to be objective with your self then it is with another.

    Not to mention any tax benefits involved in paying someone else to do it.

  7. I don’t think there is anything wrong with a agency outsourcing their own marketing. Our job is to focus on our clients which often means our own marketing/branding suffers. That’s a good thing. We don’t outsource it now, but are considering it for sure.

  8. I also believe this to be a very interesting question. With trends in marketing today, I think it’s a good idea to acquire testimonials from past and present clients to give an agency an idea of how others view them, but definitely take a stab at their own brand before outsourcing.

%d bloggers like this: