How to choose a Paid Media Agency

Author Jon Quinton 6 min read time

If you are looking to increase your activity in paid media, selecting the right agency partner to maximise your investment is critical part of the equation. 

A productive working relationship built on trust is vital. We always see the very best results when both sides of the partnership are perfectly aligned in every area. In a world that’s awash with agencies saying very similar things, finding a match made in heaven is not the simplest of tasks.

With so many industry awards, accreditations and partnership badges on almost every agency website, the job at hand is all about scratching beneath the surface within the relatively limited time a pitch allows. Whilst great to see, a collection of badges won’t really provide a true reflection of the quality of work and service you are going to receive. 

Making the effort to really get beneath the surface means you’ve got a lot more chance of finding an agency where your objectives are completely aligned, you have complete confidence in the team and that their prior experience is going to add value to what you are trying to achieve.

This post is formed from a vast amount of time pitching, experiencing extremely effective pitch processes but sadly a lot that completely miss the mark. As such, this post contains the advice we give to prospective clients to help make sure that both sides are working to identify a good match.

Yes, we are slightly biased and writing from an agency perspective, but hopefully this is useful for anyone shortlisting agencies!


Ultimately, the biggest differentiating factor between agencies will be the people and their collective experience. Spending some time with the people you will be working with on a day to day level should be right up there at the top of your priority list.

Ask plenty of questions about their approach and try to get specific examples of how challenges similar to yours were handled. Not only is getting a sense of how people work important, but chemistry is also massive – at the end of the day you are choosing the team you want to work with and you need to ‘click’.

Make the effort to look at tenure too. A team with low turnover and solid stints in their roles indicates a good working environment, and generally speaking good staff retention correlates with good client retention.

Do your ambitions match?

Every agency will be in different stages of their growth and have their own ambitions for the business and the work they want to be doing. 

If your business is entering into a fast growth phase, it always pays to make sure this matches with the ambitions of the people you will be working with. Is there a hunger for growth, and is the opportunity to break new barriers sought after or is there a nervousness with this?

Small fish / big pond?

This is a big one! Working with a large agency will have different benefits to working with a smaller agency, but on the same token each will have their own challenges too. 

It’s well worth considering whether you would prefer to be part of a larger agency, but proportionately be a smaller client, or would you prefer working with a smaller agency where you are a comparatively large client and therefore get more attention.

As a small agency, we definitely believe that a hungry team of specialists can offer a huge amount of value at often far lower costs than much larger agencies.


Beyond the softer side of the relationship, there clearly needs to be confidence in the ability of your chosen agency to produce good results.

Given how important performance is to paid media, the process for assessing past performance often falls short and is surface level at best. Out come the case studies, most of which will have an extremely similar and shiny flavour to them. All of which will have large % increases as headlines.

As an agency, it’s always a challenge to present more than this on a single slide, so talking beyond the results is vital. Try to dig into the ‘how’ and ‘why’ – what was overcome to reach these results? How long did it take? What areas of the campaigns didn’t work out so well?

As an additional point, try to get more evidence for the results that are presented. Screenshots of accounts, or some more detailed reports can back up what’s being said. Again, assess how these questions are responded to – is the agency happy to provide more detail, or do they go on the defence?

Marketing material

An agency’s marketing material (if good!) should give you a strong sense of how the business thinks, what their values are and generally what they are like as a group of people. 

Spend some time going through their social media, blog or other material to get a sense of what they are saying and what the personality of the business is like. Getting a head start here will make any time in a pitch meeting that bit more productive and useful.

Sales Process

Do the agencies on your shortlist guide the process? Do they take the brief at face value, or are there a set of well-thought through questions in response? 

Given that you are liaising with a set of experts, it makes complete sense that they should be helping you in some way to make the most of the process. 

If an agency has a clear and thought through sales process, they will likely have a set of well thought out processes across other areas of the business. It’s a great indicator of how the business operates and the thoroughness of how they work.

There will of course be many other ways to assess and decide on your next agency, but the above will give you a great sense of the agency you are talking to. 

As always, feel free to get in touch if you would like to talk through your campaigns 🙂


Having been involved in digital marketing for over a decade, Jon set up Overdrive Digital in 2016. With extensive experience in both paid media and organic channels, Jon has worked with brands ranging from small startups to global businesses.