If you spend large sums of your money on advertising, and if your profits are dependent on its efficiency, it is your duty to take great pains to find the best possible advertising agency.
Amateurs do it by cajoling a group of agencies into submitting free campaigns, on speculation. This is called a "Pitch". The agencies which win these "Pitches" are the ones which use their best brains for soliciting new accounts; they relegate their clients to their second-best brains. If I were a client, I would look for an agency which had no new business department. The best agencies don’t need them; they get all the business they can handle without preparing speculative campaigns.
The sensible way to pick an agency is to employ an advertising manager who knows enough about what is going on in the advertising world to have an informed judgment. Ask him to show you the work and commercials from the three or four agencies he believes to be best qualified for your account.
Then call some of their clients. This can be particularly revealing. Then invite the chief executive from each of the leading contenders to bring two of his key men to dine at your house. Loosen their tongues. Find out if they are discreet about the secrets of their present clients. Find out if they have the spine to disagree when you say something stupid. Observe their relationship with each other; are they professional colleagues or quarrelsome politicians? Do they promise you results which are obviously exaggerated? Do they sound like extinct volcanoes, or are they alive? Are they good listeners? Are they intellectually honest?
Above all, find out if you like them; the relationship between client and agency has to be an intimate one, and it can be hell if the personal chemistry is sour.