The number one reason why advertising agencies are the wrong choice for brand toolkits & playbooks

Why advertising agencies shouldn't build brand toolkits and playbooks

In my experiences with advertising agencies over the last 17 years, I noticed they all had one thing in common: they are notoriously enamored with awards. The problem with that? TV spots win awards. Toolkits and playbooks do not. 

How often do you see an ad agency that touts their toolkits and playbooks for the brands they work with? You don’t. Instead, they plaster their site and their pitches with that one Super Bowl spot, or that campaign from their European location that won awards. 

Branding agencies build brands. Ad agencies “sell the house.” It’s time for the real estate agent to put down the hammer and saw. 

While advertising agencies have their value and place in the suite of partners, I propose a better, honest categorization. If you want to build a remarkable house, you don’t start with a real estate sign or placing an ad in the paper. You start with an incredible designer and builder. Branding agencies build brands. Ad agencies “sell the house.” It’s time for the real estate agent to put down the hammer and saw. 

How does winning awards help you, your team, and your partners build strong brands?

It doesn’t. It’s me-me-me thinking that puts the agency’s wants over yours. But you can’t blame them, right?  (Actually, you can, but that’s tangential.)  Ad agencies accept the toolkit and playbook jobs because they pay the bills so they can keep their A-team focused on work that wins awards.

But aren’t agencies putting the A team on toolkit projects?

Not likely. And no brand should be relegated to a B or C team. Building effective toolkits requires an A-team of brand strategists and creatives whose expertise is in crafting brand tools. Agencies weren’t built for this. In fact, most have recently downsized starting with cutting their B and C teams. The very ones that used to take care of the brand playbooks and toolkits. It makes sense for them. That work doesn’t win awards, remember?

The fact is, advertising agencies weren’t built for this. Branding agencies are.

Branding agencies are a different breed of “agency.” They weren’t built for Super Bowl spots and don’t thrive on the hunt for global awards. Instead, branding agencies build their teams with strategists and designers who revel in brand thinking, strategy, and the creation of communications tools that help brands thrive. In a branding agency, there is only one team, the A-team. It’s that team that elevates brand toolkits and playbooks from rigid books of rules to tools that empower and inspire teams.

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