Brand Identity and Brand Image for Ad Agencies

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Ogilvy On Advertising" by David Ogilvy. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What are brand identity and brand image? Why is an agency’s brand something you should consider when choosing an ad agency for your business?

Brand identity and brand image are important to an ad agency’s clients. Agencies need to have a good reputation to acquire clients and build recognition. You should choose an agency with a positive brand image.

Read more about brand identity and brand image in advertising and how to choose an ad agency.

Creating Brand Identity and Brand Image

We’ll look at the industry from the point of view of clients and the public. This is all a part of building brand identity and brand image for your agency. If you’re a client, you’ll also


If you are the leader of a company seeking an ad agency, follow these 10 steps for choosing clients that help you create brand identity and brand image.

  1. Conduct the search yourself. Choosing an agency should not be delegated to a committee.
  2. Look through magazines. When you see ads you envy, find out what agencies produced them and start a list. They’ve worked on brand building for this reason.
  3. Watch TV for three nights. When you see commercials you like, find out what agencies produced them, and add them to your list.
  4. Narrow down your list by striking off anyone who works for your competitors. They can’t take you on because it would be a conflict of interest.
  5. Meet with the heads and creative directors of the remaining agencies. If you lack chemistry or rapport, strike them from the list.
  6. Don’t meet with people who will be working on your account. You won’t be working with them directly, and you won’t be able to judge their competence, so you risk meeting someone you dislike and striking a good agency off the list. For example, a client once passed on Ogilvy’s company because he didn’t like that a copywriter had long hair.
  7. Ask the remaining agencies to show you their six best print and TV ads.
  8. Choose the agency whose campaigns are the most interesting. Again, this is part of their brand-building for their clients.
  9. Offer to pay 1% more than the agency normally charges. This will get you better service. (Don’t haggle for a lower rate or choose a company because it can buy circulation cheaper. Quality people are worth paying more for.)
  10. Sign a five-year contract. This will make the agency like you, and it will prevent you from getting dropped if one of your competitors approaches the agency.

Once you’ve signed with an agency, treat them as follows in order to continue building brand identity and brand image:

  1. Don’t interfere with their work. For example, when Ogilvy was showing a campaign to the chairman of Sears, the comptroller came in and tried to edit the copy. The chairman shut him down.
  2. Give them an annual performance report. This will nip problems before they grow too big.
  3. Don’t set up more than two approval processes. Otherwise, it will take a long time to get ads approved.
  4. Be nice to copywriters—if you don’t like their work, be gentle; if you do, be effusive.

If your company is too small to be taken on by an agency, you might try recruiting a retired copywriter. Retired copywriters tend to miss the work and appreciate money.

(Shortform note: In the book, this chapter is presented as an “open letter” advising a company that wants to hire an agency. We’ve summarized it from the point of view of a client.)

The Public

While clients probably have a favorable view of adpeople, there are many critics of the industry. Some people think it’s manipulative, insincere, subversive, evil, trivializing, and one professor at the New School of Social Research referred to it as “intellectual and moral pollution.” Left-wing economists accuse ads of encouraging people to spend money on unnecessary things. But with ads, it’s all part of brand building.

Public opinion on adpeople isn’t much better—Gallup found in a survey of 24 professions, the public ranked adpeople as low as car salespeople and trade-union leaders when it came to honesty. This is part of why brand identity and brand image is so important. You want to make sure you avoid these associations.

Brand Identity and Brand Image for Ad Agencies

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Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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