Hiring a second agency is fast becoming a necessity. Even if you have retained a top firm as your agency of record (AOR), you will have specific projects, goals, or at times need an additional agency arm with channel expertise, resources, and specialists already in place. Many companies now will hire what we call a “second-to-lead” agency.
We coined this phrase after multiple clients brought us on to complement the work of the lead agency. Our job in this secondary role is to adhere to the established brand standards set by the lead agency and be an extension of their work on behalf of the client. Whether temporary or ongoing, being second-to-lead is a mutual partnership intent on helping move a brand forward.
Finding success in the second-to-lead spot
Having nearly four decades in the ad business, I can say that while we appreciate AOR status, we’ve also found great success being a second-to-lead agency. We pride ourselves on being able to focus on responsiveness and building relationships, drawing on our ability for specialized executions, and working efficiently and lean. If you’ve found yourself wondering whether to launch a super-niche campaign to reach your goals faster, a second agency might be the answer.
1. It’s always a good idea to invite fresh ideas
A second agency can help evolve a brand by bringing a new perspective to the table. I always try to emphasize the importance of fresh thinking as a key indicator for engaging a second agency. When organizations find themselves stuck in a creative rut or ready for a refresh, a secondary agency can inject innovation into their initiatives. The diverse expertise and creative brainstorming offered by a second agency can breathe new life into campaigns, unlocking unique ideas and solutions that may have been previously overlooked. Working with more than one agency can allow organizations to break away from conventional strategies and differentiate themselves in the market.
2. A second team makes everything twice as nice
There will be seasons when the lead agency or internal team is overwhelmed with other priorities. If an initiative has a tight deadline or needs a specialty studio to get it over the finish line, a second agency is a great way to ensure critical initiatives receive the attention they deserve.
In my experience, a large agency won’t be threatened by a company engaging a secondary agency with a team that is smart, scrappy, and strategic. When you bring in a fresh, agile team, organizations can work together to maintain or boost momentum, meet deadlines, and prevent valuable projects from slipping through the cracks. The secondary agency’s dedicated focus on the specific initiative ensures timely execution and enables the organization to seize opportunities without compromising quality.
3. Everyone benefits from an extra set of hands
A secondary agency can act as an arm of the lead brand agency, bringing its own channel expertise, in-house creatives, and resources to move work through quickly that is on brand and follows best practices. I’ve always emphasized the significance of engaging a second agency that values partnerships, relationships, and gives a small initiative the same priority and effort as they do a big-ticket one. The smaller initiatives, although perhaps less glamorous, are equally important and contribute to long-term success. A secondary agency with the required expertise can effectively handle these “harder working” projects, ensuring consistency and effectiveness across all aspects of the campaign.
4. Collaborative efforts can boost efficiency
When I talk to a CEO who says, “I can’t afford a second agency,” I often reply that “You can’t afford NOT to have one!” When organizations have a substantial budget for a product launch, promotion, or event, engaging a second agency is like getting a quadruple return on your investment.
With great confidence, I can assure you that a secondary agency can ensure that the budget is distributed efficiently, allowing it to cover the briefing, the strategy, and the execution. Second agencies make a living working lean, enabling the organizations they serve to achieve comprehensive and impactful campaigns while maintaining fiscal responsibility.
5. Multiple hands and minds make faster turnaround times
These days, everything is on-demand, even marketing/advertising. Sometimes, small or mid-sized agencies can better handle quick turnaround times and urgent deadlines. From some of the renowned organizations I’ve worked with over the years with, like Abbott, Novartis, Mead Johnson, Stryker, Bank of America, Whirlpool Corporation, Fifth Third Bank, PayPal, Amway, Welch’s, Safelite AutoGlass, and many others, there is one certifiable truth: Organizations continually try to accomplish more projects within accelerated timelines, such as completing a task in 8-to-12-weeks instead of the usual 6-to-9-month time frame.
When talking with CEOs or brand managers, I point out the importance of engaging a second agency to meet these urgent deadlines. Secondary agencies are well-equipped to deliver results with quicker turnaround times due to their streamlined processes, agility, and dedicated focus. By leveraging the capabilities of a second agency, organizations can capitalize on time-sensitive opportunities, maintain a competitive edge, and achieve their goals within the required time frame.
While the idea of establishing a second-to-lead agency partnership may initially feel redundant or daunting, the benefits it brings to an organization are substantial. Companies can adapt to changing market dynamics, seize new opportunities, and remain agile in an ever-evolving business landscape. I hope you found my insights informative and that, ultimately, a well-executed second-to-lead agency strategy can position an organization as a leader in multiple markets, increase profitability, and pave the way for sustained success.
Multi-agency collaboration is an upside for a business. With alignment and common ground, a brand can benefit from having a lead agency, an internal agency, and a second-to-lead, knowing all three are working toward the same client goals but may be “swimming” in different “lanes.” If you’re lucky enough to have these three partners, be sure they can play nicely in the sandbox, share assets, and collaborate as needed. Clients who can clearly and transparently allocate work based on partner strengths will have great success.
Because the world is constantly changing, Pathfinders is here to help you stay ahead of the curve. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you set and achieve your business goals.
Pathfinders is known for its expertise in financial services, social media marketing, and award-winning, multichannel campaigns. We take pride in creating innovative approaches to branding and advertising that lead clients like PayPal, Fifth Third Bank, and Bread Financial to sustained growth.