Advertising · Brand management

What is the best way to get a conversation with a major advertising agency without an introduction?

Glenn McCreedy Co-founder and CEO of Inara

March 30th, 2016

Our startup is a multi-sided platform in pre-launch mode.  We we have done a great deal of due diligence with consumer research and talking with several regional ad agencies.  We're ready to query the major ad agencies and facing some challenges in getting introductions/access for short calls where we find out what they're looking for in the way of innovative media for their clients.  What methods do you suggest to connect?  

Brian Danzis Head of Global Video Monetization at Spotify

March 31st, 2016

The Big 7 Agency Holding Groups (WPP, Publicis, Omnicom, IPG, HAVAS, Dentsu-Aegis and Horizon Media) control over 80% of all media dollars placed via TV and Digital mediums (which is 80% of ALL advertising spent in the US) or about $140BB

If you're looking for brand dollars you absolutely need to get to to these guys...locals might take your meeting, but they certainly don't have the cash to support a national launch.

You'll need access to the right people that have decision making power.  Reach out to me directly if you'd like to discuss how I might help. 

Jon Carlaw Strategy Consultant at Freelance

March 31st, 2016


Generally, the first step is to develop an RFI (request for information) to send out to get back basic information from a list of agencies. This should include the basic information on your start up. They'll want to know what kind of budget you're working with so expect to answer that even if you don't want to put it into the RFI. Every agency should have someone who handles new business inquiries so you'll need to do a bit of cold calling at first to find that contact info.

As for developing a list of agencies, you can try something like this: 
Which helps you narrow it down a bit by location and specialty. 
From your description, it looks like you're looking for a media agency? There are a number of media only shops out there, but there are still a number of great creative ad agencies that also have media capabilities as well if you're looking for a one stop shop.

From there you'll see who is 1. interested and then 2. narrow down your list a bit to get to an RFP stage where you can give them more information on your start up and a scenario for them to craft ideas around as well as a business proposal for servicing the account. Good luck.

Johann Wolf Inspiration Architect | Human Experience Designer | Executive Creative Director at Dept. of Wow

June 7th, 2016

I sensed from your initial post that you have something you hope to offer agencies and not that you are looking to hire them to advertising your business. This seems correct in light of your last posting. 
I have a question: does your platform serve interruptive models of advertising or is it a permission based model?

Richard Alcott Marketing and Communications

March 31st, 2016

Glenn - your challenge is not unique. The best way I have found for unconnected companies to work with Agencies is through a former Ad exec who can open up doors to decision makers. If you would like to discuss further, please let me know - Richard

Chad Bookidis Co-Founder at HappiFamli

March 31st, 2016


From your post it’s unclear whether you’re trying to hire an agency to help you, sell them your product, or simply get an informational interview for conducting research….

If its hiring an agency, then money talks. “Hey Mr. Ad Guy, I’ve got some marketing dollars burning a hole in my pocket.” You’ll be up to your eyeballs in martini lunches.

If it’s selling something, then see the next bit…

The next bit: The best approach is, “I need to do some research, can you hook a brother up?” Or you can be all business like and say something like, “We need some help validating our idea and thought you would be perfect to help us. Can I take you to lunch and ask a few questions?” You get my point.

Ad execs and creatives love to give advice. Heck, everyone loves that. Asking for advice gets you in the door so to speak. Other posters have mentioned awesome places to meet these peeps. I concur. I would ad social media as well. Find where they hang out digitally and ask for their advice. This often can and will lead to a sale if that’s the ultimate goal…

Lawrence Bracco President/COO GD Entertainment & Technology, Inc.

March 30th, 2016

Glenn...Here's a couple of ideas:   1) Ad industry events...they are everywhere in major agency markets like LA, NYC,  SF and Chicago.  Just show up, and start talking to people;  2) Try the client side.  Same where the clients of the major agencies are, or better yet, develop a demo of your platform for a specific client...they SHOW it to them.   3) Forget major ad agencies....too big, too cumbersome and political.   Gain successes with regional ad agencies, get some traction...the bigs will find you.

Good luck! 

Roger Wu co-founder at cooperatize, native advertising platform

March 31st, 2016

It's in the agency's best interest to know what is going on out there.  They might not get back to you after 1,2,3,4 or even 5 unsolicited emails/calls but if you keep pounding at them they'll eventually take a meeting.

Loreyne Alicea Strategist/Growth Marketer/Customer Experience

March 31st, 2016


Keep it simple.....looks like you an offering for Agency and their Clients, not that you are looking for an Agency.  The best success that we have had with start up or early stage companies has been by showing "proof of performance".  Work with a Brand and show the success there.  Once you deliver on that, you identify the right Ad Exec that has the rolodex and from there, you will be on your way.

Achuthan Kutty Consultant at Back in Bangalore - Consulting

March 30th, 2016

Hi Glenn: The big agencies are a very tough nut to crack; I would strongly recommend that you speak with clients/marketers first. It is really in their interest to better what they are doing and if your platform helps in that, you have a win-win. Yes they may bring in their agency for an opinion. That is my $0.01. Regards, Achu PS: I have no idea what your solutioning is...but if it is going to improve ROI, this strategy oif appealing to clients should work...

Glenn McCreedy Co-founder and CEO of Inara

April 3rd, 2016

Thanks all for being generous with your expertise and ideas. My apologies for leaving out some detail--we are indeed researching the advertising marketplace for "selling something" to clarify. As some of you pointed out, having a tangible product (our private beta is in development and coming soon) makes a big difference, along with getting traction/proof of performance where we can (a brand or two and working with regional agencies first). In the meantime, your tips on networking and suggested approaches for reaching out to the majors and engaging--all good. We're newly inspired and motivated to kick this process into high gear and looking forward to helping advertisers exploit new media territory and agencies better serve their clients to reach their goals. Again, a big thank you. Cheers.