Why Culture Matters When Selecting a Creative Agency

July 12, 2020In Collective, Strategy4 Minutes

The creative agency model has changed. In the not too distant past, the market was dominated by big firms with high rise locales and seemingly never-ending expense accounts. While those models still exist in some forms, the general culture of the creative agency has shifted to a more open market with varied options ranging from small boutique outfits to agency collectives consisting of a grouping of freelancers. With technology allowing clients to access talent anywhere, geography is no longer an issue, and the options can be overwhelming.

Foremost – agency talent is key when it comes to choosing a creative team. It’s important to assess organizational elements such as services, capabilities, and process as well as past work and portfolio – but perhaps the factor that can make or break a successful relationship is ensuring that the agency’s culture fit is in alignment with the brand it’s paired with.


Core Values of the Creative Agency

Much like learning about and connecting with a brand, assessing the values of the creative agency can provide the necessary insight to determine if the working relationship will be compatible. More than likely, the engagement will be over a long period of time, so taking the time to review these items is key.

  • What is their purpose?
  • What drives them?
  • How is the team motivated and engaged?
  • What makes them different?
  • What inspires them?
  • Why do they exist?


The philosophy of a creative team really comes down to point of view and process. How does a team work together to get the job done? Do you want to work one on one with each team member through the process or do you prefer a collaborative approach? Recently, many teams have been taking different approaches to their process – from parallel to iterative to agile design methodologies. Chances are if a client isn’t comfortable with the agency’s process philosophy – the project will be difficult to navigate successfully.


Choosing an agency based on their specialization may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s usually not (quite) that simple. For example, if a sports equipment company is launching a new sub-brand, they might look to the most visible agency that works with other athletic brands in the market. Upon kick-off, the brand may realize that the agency is too rigid in its process and doesn’t offer enough collaborative opportunities. It’s also important to ensure that the team understands the brand fully and can connect with the target audience – if they are a group that is majority too young, too conservative, or too progressive – the tone and voice may not get to where the brand can connect with its audience.

However, a brand goes about selecting a team, not only is it important to scour their website but schedule a discovery session either in person or via phone and/or video conference to ask questions and get a feel for the people behind the digital persona.

A design team collaborating.

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