Looking at our media landscape, you’d think the calendar was already showing 2087. New formats and approaches as well as technical requirements overwhelm many companies. TikTok here, Instagram there, new SEO requirements, updates to Google Search Console – when did it all happen? Understandably, many in-house brandeteers can barely keep up. No one can cover so many different areas. The first aid: an external agency. But here, companies are often already faced with the next problem: Which agency is the right one for my needs, my budget and which agencies exist at all? In this article, we take a closer look at the decisive criteria for agency selection.

After reading, you will know everything about these topics:

  • Which agency suits you.
  • What advantages and disadvantages full-service agencies have.
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of special agencies.
  • What matters when choosing an agency.
  • How agencies communicate.
  • Agency Selection Checklist.
  • Potential conflicts with agencies.
  • A third alternative? The Agency Network.

Full-service agency and special agency in comparison

360° full service online agency. Creative agency. App Agency. Branding Agency. UI/UX Design Agency. Communication Agency. Advertising agency. Huh? There are now countless names for marketing agencies. Why? Because every agency wants to stand out from the rest. Or in other words: because each agency has to stand out from the others. But there are differences especially in the services offered. Design agencies, agencies that specialize exclusively in designing websites, products or magazines, can be of little help with an SEO text strategy. Similarly, a website development agency cannot produce a moving image. So these special agencies do not master everything, but one particular thing perfectly.

For comparison: full-service marketing agencies. These can do everything a bit, but are not specialized. Let’s imagine the specialty agency as a tea store, but the full-service advertising agency as a grocery store. Of course, there is also tea in the grocery store, but unfortunately no special tea. Here, the focus is on the wide range and not on the specialty.

Facts from a special agency:

  • Is often requested for individual projects.
  • Possesses high level of expertise on a particular topic.
  • Often delivers only one of several parts for large projects.

Facts from a full-service agency:

  • Can easily control large projects.
  • Has many services under one roof.
  • Can always add more items to the project.

What does a full-service agency do?

If you don’t know where to go with your request, you usually contact a full-service advertising agency. It offers a wide range of services on websites and in portfolios and has a possible implementation plan for everything. A website relaunch is implemented just as much as a complete marketing strategy with brand essence, a poster campaign or the new magazine for trainees. The image film is available on top, along with the social media battle plan and the newsletter. Wow.

These, usually larger companies, can serve multiple disciplines in different digital areas. However, this type of agency often only scratches the surface of the issues. If it reaches its limits, it is not uncommon for missing service areas to be purchased externally without the customer being aware of it. This:r is ultimately happy that he or she has received his or her promised service and does not question anything in this respect. So here, too, a decades-long cooperation can develop, because this one full-service Internet agency makes customers and clients wishfully happy.

What does a special agency do?

At the moment of your request, the special agency probably already has something ahead of you. They know exactly what they want. Here, orders are only accepted and implemented if expertise is available. But with absolute know-how and mostly impressively long experience. Here, a single inquiry can end in a ten-minute lecture – passion at its best. All employees here burn for this one topic. However: if you let your web design be realized by this special agency, you will have an enviably pretty and professional web design, but you will really only have an enviably pretty and professional web design. Texts, however, to fill this web design with content, do not yet exist. There is also no:e specialist:in there yet, who programs this page and actually puts it into a content management system. In addition, host plus server are missing. So you need another agency for the texts. And an agency for programming. And who actually handles all the communication between these agencies? As you can see, we have already discovered the first vulnerability.

Which type of agency fits my requirements?

Advantages and disadvantages of a full-service agency


As the scope of a project increases, external contact persons who hold all the reins are indispensable. This time saving is not worth gold, but money. In addition, communication is super convenient for you as a customer or client. In regular appointments you give feedback, which is collected and passed on. At the next meeting, the contact persons talked to everyone involved in the project and implemented your feedback. Another benefit is a good understanding of the big picture of a project. Here we think for the whole distance, which is why unexpected complications on the way to the destination are rare. Of course, this is also due to the fact that internal communication at full-service digital agencies often works flawlessly. The different areas, such as graphics, social media, text or SEO work hand in hand. Possible coordination problems or long feedback paths are not given here.

Quick Facts of a Full-Service Agency:


Of course, the decision for a full-service agency is always a question of quality. The word full service seems inflated and often only means that one or two special disciplines are available at the agency and the rest is simply offered in addition. The chance for the agency that someone will bite in the big pond of potential new customers increases enormously due to the wide range of products and services. If a certain amount of bycatch in the network demands services that the agency cannot actually provide, this requested service is often bought cheaply elsewhere and resold at the normal agency price. This is not a problem in the first place, but is it morally acceptable? Those who think of Milli Vanilli here have already understood. The pop duo from the 80s could dance great and was charismatic – but lacked the good vocals, which were simply bought elsewhere and puzzled into the existing project.

Advantages and disadvantages of a special agency


The special agency shines with expertise in its field. That’s where she’s been moving for years and that’s where she’s known. Trends are exploited before they are known, so to speak, which gives customers and clients a strong competitive advantage. What full-service agencies pick up on the side, for example in the area of SEO, SEO-specialized agencies know from the first second. This becomes especially important in terms of security or Google ranking. The specialized agency knows what it wants and does not ask for anything else. Additional offers that lead from one service to another are not to be expected here. No advantage for the special agency, but certainly for your company, is the fact that you can more easily terminate the cooperation if results are not satisfactory. After all, marketing services do not collapse in various places, but only in one.

Quick Facts from a Specialty Agency:


The special agency also has various disadvantages. For example, the range of services always includes only a certain part of the overall project. For all other sub-areas, further specialists have to be sought, which entails a high and costly communication requirement. Let’s remember our example of the company that hired only one design agency and now has an enviably beautiful and professional web design – but only with that. So each time many project participants are needed, all of whom have to communicate with each other in different ways. It is almost obvious that information often falls by the wayside here.

Interim Conclusion

“Marketing wird immer mehr zur Spezialisten Disziplin, denn in den letzten zehn Jahren hat sich die Anzahl möglicher Marketing-Plattformen um 840% gesteigert! Unmöglich für einzelne Marketeers all die Plattformen selbst exzellent zu beherrschen.“

Christian Tembrink Dozent für Digitale Transformation, Fresenius Hochschule Köln

Nevertheless, we can state that much depends on smooth communication. There can be poor processes within a full-service agency, however, communication with several individual agencies can also become a drag. An alternative that has become popular are agency networks in which different specialized agencies work under one roof. These know and trust each other and are used to communicating with each other.

One full-service agency or multiple specialty agencies?

How do I find the right advertising agency?

The first thing you should ask yourself is what exactly you need and what expertise you want to call upon. Where is support needed and where are you already well positioned? Do you want to launch a temporary campaign or tackle long-term brand building? The clearer the briefing is at the beginning, the easier it will be for you to formulate the request.

Look around online. Which digital agency convinces with its services and which one suits you at first sight? Also important: Which agency do you like? Are there certificates or does the agency have a social side effect? References from well-known companies are not always a sign of the best agency, but can be a sign of certain experience. Also, listen to your gut and ask industry colleagues or friends for recommendations.

Once you’ve answered all of these questions and have several favorites in mind, it’s time to get started: call, email, and wait for a response. Entweder bekommst Du direkt am Telefon ein Gefühl oder Du kannst die Antwort auf Deine E-Mail zwischenmenschlich interpretieren. Sollte es zum ersten Kennenlernen vor Ort oder als Webmeet kommen, wirst Du schnell wissen, ob es passt oder nicht. For example, pay attention to questions that are asked. Is interest shown in your person and your company? Is only the:project manager:in on site or all the people who will be working on the project? Can the agency already say how it would proceed now and how should the settlements proceed?

We have summarized all points again in a checklist.

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How do I avoid conflicts and optimize cooperation with agencies?

The relationship between clients and the respective agency is an important basis for the joint projects. If the harmony suffers a little in some phases, then this is usually not a big problem and it improves again over time. If not, optimizations must be made. These optimizations are quickly implemented in 99% of cases. For example, if files often need to be sent to multiple people, it is probably easier to collect the files on a web space rather than sending them to each person individually. If there is a problem in the communication chain, it can help to run everything through contact person X instead of Y, since this person is in the house more often. So quick solutions to small conflicts save time and money. However, there are also conflicts in the cooperation with agencies that only develop over time and for which a search for the cause can become intensive. However, some situations in the agency industry could be avoided quite simply.

Five do`s in working with agencies:

  • Provide timely feedback
  • Be reachable
  • Trust the strategy
  • Classify effort professionally
  • Talk to the agency

Agencies are annoyed when they don’t get any feedback and bumpy internal processes with customers exceed the agreed feedback deadline by two weeks. This causes congestion in the agency’s workload and chaos in planning. Reversing plans and changing strategies even though a specific roadmap was agreed upon in advance can also cause a fractured relationship. The reason is obvious: in the case of concept changes, there are always a lot of unplanned hours, which the agency naturally bills according to time and effort. Which brings us to the next point of contention: Invoices. “It took your design department 40 hours to do the web design? That’s a complete work week. In that time we produce 10,000t XY.” This is an almost typical problem, as customers often find it difficult to understand why something takes as long as it does. Tip: Talk to the agency and show interest in the work, rather than questioning through the nose the work being done.

Agency network as a new trend?

An agency network may be seen as the “best of both worlds.” Here, many specialized agencies communicate and create as full-service providers under one roof. Let’s say you want to rebuild a brand. Then you get the corporate design from a special agency, the content from a special agency and the strategy from a special agency in the agency network. However, communication feels like you’re at a full-service agency because the specialty agencies communicate independently with each other. Here the advantages of a special agency meet the advantages of a full-service agency. The ideal solution for small and large concerns. Another great advantage is that with an agency network, one agency makes the other better. This synergy effect flows into their project and is a free bonus at every stage.


What the specialty agency can’t do, the full-service agency can, and vice versa. So it depends on what you need and in what depth, and whether this results in further communication measures.

If you need a single intensive service and it is unlikely that further actions will result from it, the special agency is possible. Note: If you need several services, you will also need several specialized agencies. The capacities and also the skills to mediate between several agencies should be available in your company in the long term. If you want something more comfortable, the full-service agency is the best choice. Here, communication is a no-brainer, additional services are possible at any time and the agency knows the overall project – so can adjust at any time without major problems. Of course, the full-service agency also has a high level of expertise and understanding of the subject matter. Roughly speaking, the following rule of thumb can be applied:

Special agency in the following cases:

  • Intensive individual project
  • Deep expertise needed
  • Project management is given in-house

Full-service agency in the following cases:

  • Extensive project
  • Simple project management desired
  • Simple extension of the project possible