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Building a brand doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of work to forge strong relationships with people—and much of that work is done through marketing. Unless you have a powerhouse internal team to help you tell your story, it’s likely you’ll need a little support in crafting and executing your marketing strategy. But searching for someone to help you do that can be confusing. There are all sorts of agencies out there, so how do you know whether you should hire a creative agency, a digital agency, or an ad agency?

Here, we’ll break down everything you need to know about creative agencies, helping you understand what they are, why they’re different, and how to find one.

So, What Is a Creative Agency?

A creative agency is a term for an agency that offers a variety of services that fall under the umbrella of marketing and advertising. Basically, if you need any type of creative strategy, work, or promotion, they can help you get it done.

While some creative agencies specialize in one thing more than another, they usually provide:

Strategy Services

  • Advertising strategy
  • Brand Strategy
  • Content Strategy
  • Marketing Strategy
  • Social Media Strategy

Measurement and Analysis

Content Creation (AKA “Creative”)

  • Annual Reports
  • Case Studies
  • Blogs & Articles
  • Branding
  • Copywriting
  • Copyediting
  • Content Planning & Publishing
  • Data visualization
  • Ebooks
  • Explainer Videos
  • Graphic Design
  • Infographics
  • Interactives
  • Animated Video
  • Motion Graphics
  • Presentations
  • White Papers
  • Video
  • Motion Graphics (or Animated Video)
  • Microcontent
  • Photography
  • Web Design & Development

Communications Services

  • Media Buys
  • Paid Placement
  • Sponsored Content
  • Influencer Marketing
  • PR

In short, a creative agency is a creative partner that will help your brand tell its story.

What Does a Creative Team Look Like?

A creative agency is comprised of a variety of experts who can support your brand’s strategy. In general, that includes a mix of the following:

  • Art Director
  • Creative Director
  • Brand and Content Strategists
  • Account Directors/Managers
  • Producers
  • Writers & Editors
  • Videographers
  • Web Designers & Developers
  • Graphic Designers
  • Content Distribution Specialists

Depending on its structure, some creative agencies also work with expert partners, such as a video production house.

What’s the Difference Between a Creative Agency and Other Agencies?

This is a common question. While some agencies may provide services that overlap with a creative agency, many agencies focus on one particular service or category, such as:

  • Design agency: An agency that offers design services for a variety of visual mediums, including print and digital.
  • Digital agency: The moniker typically reserved for an agency focused on digital marketing strategy, often focused on SEO and lead generation.
  • Advertising agency: An agency focused specifically on advertising (digital, TV, radio, print, etc.). It may or may not provide marketing services.
  • PR agency: An agency that offers promotional and content distribution services to maximize brand awareness.
  • SEO agency: An agency focused on various on-site and search marketing strategies and tactics to increase traffic and lead gen.
  • Social media agency: Specializes in social strategies and, oftentimes, the management of social media accounts.

A creative agency usually encompasses one or more of these services.

How Can a Creative Agency Help You?

There are many services a creative agency provides. Whether you need them to fill in the gaps in your marketing team or take the reigns entirely, a creative agency can help…

  • Craft strategy. If you don’t know what you’re doing, not sure if you’re doing the right thing, or not sure where to start, a creative agency can provide the guidance you need to achieve your marketing goals.
  • Support your existing strategy. If you know what you want to do but need help executing your strategy, a creative agency can provide that support, whether it’s content creation, media placement, editorial planning, or social media advertising.
  • Provide expert knowledge and resources. A good creative agency has experience and insight to help improve your results. They know what works, what doesn’t, where trends are moving, etc. They also have a larger network of content creators who can help you (even if they themselves don’t provide the services you’re looking for).

You can also find full-service creative agencies that specialize in your particular industry or offering, such as B2B tech or entertainment.

How Do You Know If You Need One?

Not everyone needs a creative agency, particularly if you have a solid operation or an in-house team that is capable of executing your marketing strategy. However, you might consider using a creative agency if you…

  • Don’t have the resources. Some brands find it difficult to execute their strategy due to limited means, accessibility, or availability. A creative agency can help support your strategy with the infrastructure you need.
  • Don’t have the knowledge. A creative agency is staffed by expert creators who have the skills and expertise to create all types of content—and, most importantly, adhere to best practices.
  • Don’t have the bandwidth. Your team may be bogged down with other projects, meaning your marketing projects are delayed or backburnered indefinitely. A creative agency can help you create consistent, quality content at scale.
  • Are struggling to get results. If your current strategy isn’t delivering the results you want, a creative agency can advise you on how to tweak, improve, or revise your strategy.

If you’re still not sure if an agency can help you, here’s how to figure out if you need one.

How Do You Find One?

Not all creative agencies are right for your needs. We recommend interviewing several to ensure they’re the right fit for your brand. To help you narrow it down, check out these 12 things to look for in a creative agency.

How Do You Get the Best Work From an Agency?

A good creative agency is focused on building a long-term relationship with your brand, functioning as a true creative partner and not just a gun for hire. To get the most from your agency, follow these tips to build a strong relationship with your agency, try these tactics to work together more effectively, and determine how you’ll split the workload up front.