You are better served if your budget is big enough bringing it in house. License your own agency and find someone who can handle the detail and placement with the various media you use. A lot of agencies will throw mud at this, but there really is nothing new in automotive advertising. You can develop your own thematic and leave production up to the media. You'll drive just as much traffic and maybe more if you develop a passion for creative marketing. Think outside the box, involve your local community, and seek out partnerships with local public service and corporate entities. If you want it done right do it yourself...
First define what you mean by Full Service Advertising Agency.
Some companies will use this term to lead you to believe they will be a "one-stop-shop" for you. Even if they do offer a variety, NOBODY can be an expert in ALL things.
A great question to ask a new agency is, "What area are you not an expert." They should have an answer or they are full of baloney.
Look for an agency that offers "No Long-Term Contract" agreements. If they are confident in their services there is no need for long term contracts.
A critically important point--> Look for an agency that offers copywriting for direct response in addition to any media buying or marketing strategies. Copywriting is critically important in all your advertising and some agencies fail on this skill. Good copywriting can increase a direct mail campaign response by 250% or increase your optin rate on a website by 150%. You will encounter agencies and consultants that offer to do your SEO, Local SEO, Google Pay-Per-Click, Social Media Pay-Per-Click, Direct mail, and follow email and newsletters...BUT if the copywriting is not top quality, the power of all of these diminishes.
Look for a company that will give you a teaser or some value upfront as an example of their skill set. As an example, we give you a short question sheet then follow up with a screen shot video with a few things you can capitalize on immediately...at no charge. There may be other companies that do something similar.
Finally, find an agency that you can scale up with as you experience success with them rather than having to buy the whole package upfront.
An example of what I mentioned earlier...We are not experts for television, radio, magazine, or newspaper advertising but we are experts in Local SEO, Google PPC, Social PPC, Direct mail sequencing, Online Video, Reputation Marketing, follow-up marketing, and copywriting.
Dealer Profit Pros
You didn't mention your size (annual volume). A larger operation would usually do better with a larger agency, but a larger agency usually is not interested in a smaller store. A smaller agency might not have the staff to handle a larger dealership. In this decision, size usually matters.
You will need to know how they charge, flat fees, percentage of dollars placed, production fees, will they handle your co-op submissions for you, will they charge you for that, and any miscellaneous charges. A good agency should care about you and your budget and should help you to maximize your advertising efforts.
Interview at least 3 agencies, look at their work, talk to current clients and ask for several clients who no longer do business with them. Call those dealers and ask why they no longer do business with this particular agency. Look for an agency that has fresh ideas. The fact you are looking might indicate you are not happy with your current results. You certainly don't need an agency that will just continue what you are doing.
Lastly, set and stick to a budget. I recommend 10% of your total gross generated (vehicle gross of $100000 equals a $10000 budget) for your budget which should include all agency and production fees.
Most established ad agencies that specialize in serving car dealerships grew up in the newspaper age. When you are talking to prospective agencies, ask them for examples of demonstrated success for their existing clients using new media (Twitter, SMS, Facebook, SEO/SEM).
Without fail get references and have at least three formal proposals.It would be nice to have have your entire management staff in the meetings. It is quite possible if you make the right choice to see immediate results but you will need impute from your managers.
If you do not have the size necessary to attract a good agency taking it in house might be a good ideal BUT make sure your choice to staff this is qualified and DONOT create a KING(one who thinks he/she is an advertising genius), I've seen this personally and with other clients.
A common idea is to spend a percentage of sales on marketing. This is better than just completely guessing BUT...
I just addressed this to our newsletter subscribers but in case you are not on that list...
Why limit yourself? If you can spend $1 and get $1.10 back, how much should you spend?
Answer - Billions of dollars!
The truth is at some point your profits for one marketing avenue may start to diminish but you should find out what level that is. If you were running useless brand marketing then a percentage of sales makes sense but if you are running direct response marketing, putting a cap on your spending without knowing the return could actually COST you money!