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Just Another Intro

I did Marketing while in University and the fact that I still have a presentation 7 years later from class shows the value of that particular presentation. The class was on Advertising and one of the groups was mandated to present to us the types of ad agencies – in Kenya at least. Fast forward to date and here I’ll share and expound more on the same – in a more comprehensive manner. These types of agencies are based on the scope of work an agency is able to cover. We’ll cover an in depth look at these types of agencies while listing services available within a particular type of agency and further give some examples. The examples given for each type of agency are biased towards Kenya especially the speciality agencies; where possible, I’ve indicated some global examples. Somewhere along the article we have highlighted where Pulsar Limited as an agency belongs. Further, we credited sources of this information at the end, academia style! It is important to note that you cannot really exclusively categorise an agency (except maybe for a full-service agency). Confining an agency to one category would be a fallacy as most agencies nowadays have a multifaceted approach to their services. These categories or types of agencies thereof, may help you as a brand when looking for a particular service. For example, at Pulsar Limited, we cannot exclusively call ourselves a branding agency yet we are right in the middle of digital itself… what of the printing services we provide? Enough with the introduction to the topic… let’s jump right in! If you are the visual type, you can go the view diagrammatic representation of type of agencies here.

Full Service Agency

This term is literal actually. The advertising agency literally provides all services regarding advertising. They provide the complete range of communication services associated with above the line and below the line. So, it would be easier to refer to them as “a Full Service Advertising/Marketing Agency”. They cover all stages of marketing communication including strategy development, execution and monitoring. To avoid repetition of mentioning the services available within a Full Service Agency, take note that all the services provided by the below mentioned agencies below are available in a full-service agency. Due to the scale of services they provide, these agencies are highly likely to be operating on a global scale or at least on a national/regional level. They work with a broad range of customers that are able to afford their full range of services including brands focused on direct to consumer or business to business. Their network of operations may have formed complex conglomerates that own and manage these agencies. Two examples include Omnicon Group (New York, USA) and WPP Group (London, UK) who own or have a network of 400+ companies! A few examples from Kenya include:

Globally we have the following:

  • Ogilvy & Mather (they also have operations in Kenya as well)
  • McCann-Erickson who have an outdated website for Kenya… at least as at the time I hit publish.

Full services agencies (sometimes referred to as traditional advertising/marketing agencies) are great for brands looking to create campaigns cutting across all channels available to their budget… big budget! They have the capacity to coordinate across mediums and deliver results with quick turnaround times. Their global operations means they are suitable for brands operating across regions as well. The full-service agencies have networks as well across the world to enable serve their clients in regions they may not have presence. Where they fall short of skills, they recruit the other specialised agencies listed below. Some are bullies, they can buy you off as well! I may not get another opportunity to mention this below but it would be good to note that some agencies are smaller and focus on a particular channel only e.g. print only, radio only, or a combination of one or two channels. For example, at Pulsar Limited, we are able to provide print advertising services though we are nowhere near a full-service agency by any scale. Due to their sheer size, these full-service agencies may not be suitable for small and medium sized enterprises. Mostly because you may not afford them, and even if you could, your budget would be too small to get any benefit out of it. For those that can afford them, it may be good to note that some of the below the line services are best offered by the other types of agencies. The type of focus and specialised expertise you’ll get from them is unmatched by the big boys of the industries… plus some excellent dedicated services. If I could use an analogy, it is sort of going to a hospital for general treatment versus going to say a heart specialist, or a brain surgeon. The specificity you get from the specialist can be found at a hospital but not at the level of skill of the specialist in their clinic.

In-House Agency

Some organisations tend to have complex and frequent requirements. They have complex structures or departments cutting across various business units. Yet, they still need to communicate their value proposition to their target market in a unified manner. A good example is a university. The main advantage though to having an in-house agency is full control of your brand. The downside is the amount of resources that may be required to run an in-house agency especially if you have ad-hoc requirements. The services available within the in-house agency depends on the scale of resources you have to set up such a capacity. The cost saving implications are debatable depending on which angle you are assessing at it from and the size of the in-house agency. They however, no matter the size, will at some point in time require the services of any of the other agencies mentioned herein. The top service I’ve encountered with in-house agencies is creative or design services. A good example of an in-house agency is that from Strathmore University.

Public Relations Agencies

Over the years, PR has grown to more than maintaining a favourable public image for brands. By the way, brands in this context can extend to personalities and celebrities. Investor relations, performing crisis communication while still maintaining the favourable image to various stakeholders such as employees, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders is till part of PR. A PR agency is able to craft an appropriate mix of various PR tools that are able to gain a brand free coverage in various communication channels. If I were to put it simply, PR firms create a conversation that connects a brand to its target audience. Maintaining this conversation continuously is a task most PR agencies live for. It is important to note that the channel in which this conversation takes place is not paid for. If you think about it, this coverage, if measured in terms of advertising shillings (or dollars) is immensely invaluable. At the end, what you gain is a strong image, and if done well, PR can outdo what an advert can do! Examples of PR Agencies from Kenya:

As an added information, there’s the Public Relations Society of Kenya Globally we have the following PR Agencies:

Media Planning and Buying Agencies

In any marketing plan, you have the tactical part where you choose the type of media channels to use. The problem that arises is reaching out to the companies that own these channels and negotiating for the right space, not to mention planning out the campaign itself. This is where media planning and buying agencies come in. These agencies focus on buying the media time and space in traditional channels including other upcoming above the line channels. Examples of these channels include TV, radio, billboards or outdoor adverts and print. This specialisation affords them bulk purchases that result in hefty discounts that you as an individual brand may not manage on your own. With their knowledge, they are able to advise brands on which channels, space and/or time would provide maximum return on investments. So, they generally have insights on the audiences that use the said channels. It is hard to find an agency that exclusively does media planning and buying as recently they are extending their services to cover a broader scope… after all, they have insights on which channels they can benefit from! More often than not, they are incorporated into the full-service marketing/advertising agency. An example of a media planning and buying agency in Kenya is Saracen Media, part of OMDFrank Mania Group is also a media planning and buying agency with presence in Kenya and Tanzania.

Branding and Identity Agencies

Marketing is such a broad field that it requires various specialised services. Remember the hospital vs. specialist analogy above? A Branding Agency is one such specialist. Branding has gained popularity over the years and it is no secret that it can be one of the most valuable assets for any organisation. It goes without saying that such a valuable asset needs special care. The facets of brand development are so broad that a branding agency may just have as many services offered as the Full Service Agency. One of the facets of brand development includes the design of the brand’s visual identity commonly referred to as the logo. This falls squarely within the scope of a branding agency. They also take care of the development of all marketing collateral and other communication devices a brand may need to establish itself. Examples of these marketing collateral include business stationery (letterheads, invoices, business forms such as receipts), signage, interior design, environmental design, billboards, among other design works. Their intricacies in branding also best places the branding agency to carry out rebranding activities. Most of these agencies have established process that allow for in depth enquiry into the brand giving them the required insights to develop a brand that stands out in the market. Others prefer to call themselves brand consultancies. Another key service they provide may include market research that may assist the brand to best position itself in the market and/or build a strong image. Apart from visual identity, they can also help in product development including its design and packaging. As mentioned earlier, these agencies do not exclusively exist in silos. Rarely will you find an exclusive branding agency. Their knowledge gives them the opportunity to expand in other fields to offer complementary services such as printing, photography, brand marketing, digital marketing and other relevant services within their scope. The services of a branding agency are best suited for a start-up or when a company is rebranding. Some examples of top branding agencies in Kenya include:

Globally we have the following:

Digital, Interactive and Online Marketing Agencies

Compared to traditional media in terms of time or existence, Digital Marketing is just a baby! These agencies arose from the new age media which is the internet. The unabated growth of the internet has seen various agencies opt to provide such services, Pulsar Limited included. The scope of digital marketing could be considered just as wide as that of a Full Service Agency. This is because, funnily enough, the internet provides the opportunity to utilise almost all communication mix elements on the same channel i.e. you can advertise, do direct selling, carry out your PR and so much more. A digital marketing agency may provide all or some of the services mentioned below. Some of the services may just be as specialised as our earlier analogy above and may require you to exclusively deal with them (not forgetting however they are part of your integrated marketing efforts). It is also important to note that it doesn’t stop with the internet, but realisation that mobile is a big part of it! Some examples of digital marketing agencies in Kenya include:

Below are the services provided by digital marketing agencies. We’ve aligned them to showcase how you’d generally progress if you were to undertake digital marketing as part of your strategy.

  • Web Design and Development

This is where it all starts. It starts by building a doorway to your organisation, and this is your website. Think of the website as your digital storefront, a place where customers come to visit and get to know about your product and even buy it. Branding agencies will tell you how important the professional look and feel of your website is. It is literally like interacting with your physical brand. If a user doesn’t like the experience, then they are likely to conclude the same about your physical store… not good!

  • Content Marketing

The internet was primarily designed to provide information. So, if you won’t provide this information, someone else will, and users will find this someone else. This is where content marketing comes in and it takes on various forms. Content may come in the form of a blog, white papers, eBooks, webinars… basically text, audio and video.

  • Search Engine Optimisation and/or Marketing

So, you have the content, how do you then get traffic? Well, web traffic i.e. users who visit your website. This is where SEO agencies come in. There’s a lot more to SEO than meets the eye and it would be wise to really do your background research before choosing an SEO agencySearch Engine Marketing basically covers digital marketing campaigns carried out on search platforms such as Google and Bing. This would ordinarily not exist on its own as many brands would prefer to carry out comprehensive digital campaigns hence why I’ve listed it as a service below:

  • Digital Marketing Campaigns

At times, SEO efforts may take a lot of time to yield any results. You can accelerate your brand’s presence online by paying for various channels available to you. The main advantage of digital marketing is just how measurable it can be… and further how controllable it can be. A proper digital strategy can give small businesses the much-needed opportunity that has been often out of their reach i.e. traditional marketing.

  • Social Media Marketing

Social media is like the newest baby in town in terms of digital marketing channels. Needless to explain what it is; it is a key service that may be available within a digital agency’s capacity. Some are even specialised social media marketing agency like EM ConsultingVery few businesses can today survive without social media marketing. This is an opportunity for brands to connect with their audience at a personal level. Brands should not squander this opportunity by bashing users with sales messages!

  • Inbound Marketing

This, I must say, is rare in Kenya and brands are yet to fully grasp the nature of the opportunity at hand. Inbound marketing operates on the principle of the user looking for you as opposed to you looking for the user. It has a lot of moving parts and marketing automation software is at its heart. Basically, at the end of the day, inbound marketing is about attracting and converting users who visit your website into your customers through a process called lead nurturing.

  • Other Specialised Services

Digital marketing agencies may further grow their clout to provide the following services:

  • Application Development (Apps)
  • Email Marketing

I’ve written more on digital marketing than initially intended but that’s because digital marketing agencies are critical in today’s marketing environment.

Design Agencies & Creative Boutiques

I could call them the darling of agencies. This is literally where all the beautiful ideas come from and most agencies could not do without their services. Yes, they do extensive work for other agencies and for some design agencies, this may be their bread and butter. As their name suggests, they exist to provide creative services for various applications including print advertising. They are small but critical part of the industry. Most operate with 5 or so people and may include a graphic designer, a web designer, a copywriter, an artist and maybe a marketer in some cases. Brands working with such agencies should provide clear briefs that will enable them get the best out of the creative agency. If you are a small brand, you can definitely afford their services in the development of you marketing collateral. Some creative agencies have the capacity to handle large brands but may not be able to handle multiple accounts like the Full Service Agency. Just as pointed earlier, agencies do not operate in silos and working with a small creative agency may yield better results: they can connect you to the relevant agencies for the rest of your needs. Generally, they can design of brand packages, websites, advertising, flyers, brochures and all types of print collateral. At times they are referred to as design studios. They live and breathe design! An example of a creative agency is Johnson Banks, founded by Michael Johnson author of Branding in Five and a Half Steps. Locally, in Kenya, we have Ark Africa and Creative Y&R.

Other Specialized Agencies

We’ve just covered the major types of agencies above. The below agencies operate in niche markets and serve niche needs. They are so specialised that this could be all they do. Let’s jump right in!

a) Direct-Response Agencies

I’d ordinarily classify this as a major agency in other markets, but due to direct marketing having a small place in Kenya, we’ll classify it here. Direct marketing elicits a direct response from consumers regardless of the channel being used (let’s leave digital marketing out of it for the sake of sanity). If you have a post office box, you may have received a direct mail with a coupon. If you watch certain TV stations, you’ll see them using infomercials. Okay, let’s bring the insanity back. If you use email, you’ve seen coupons being sent out to you for you to redeem. All these activities want you to act on the information. It is what direct response (or direct marketing) agencies specialise in. A good Kenyan example of how this would work is the SMS platform. It is just so good how it works because unlike email, you can’t ignore them. I’d list these agencies 2nd to digital marketing when it comes to ability to measure. Because of their methodology, they are able to give accurate performance of any campaign they undertake. Advanced direct marketing agencies have the capacity to offer Customer Relationship Management, Loyalty and even data mining. SaracenPHD Kenya is one of the Direct Response Agency I’ve managed to scrape from my scouring of information on the world wide web.

b) Business to Business Agencies

Business-to-business basically means a brand (organisation) that specifically provides goods and services to other businesses. Therefore, a business-to-business agency provides branding or marketing services to businesses that are specifically business-to-business. You may wonder why such an agency would exist and to you it may seem a duplicitous effort. But, think about certain goods such as industrial goods e.g. an airplane engine, a data centre, a CT Scan, earth moving equipment among others. Rarely will you see an advertisement by Phillips selling medical equipment. It is because these goods are sold or marketed and even branded differently. They need someone with the specific know how. Someone who understands the complex decision making in the B2B field. So specialised are these agencies that you may find one working with a specific industry or product and further a specific channel such as digital or print. My search for a B2B agency in Kenya did not yield substantive leads. Some examples in the global scene include:

c) Promotional Services Agencies

These agencies specialise in sales promotion activities. If a brand focuses on business-to-consumer (B2C), fast moving consumer goods (FMCGs) and more so in a highly competitive space, then a Sales Promotion Agency will be a handy sidekick. These agencies are well versed in crafting sales programmes and strategies including identifying suitable sales promotional tools and analysis and/or evaluation of any activity they undertake. They carry out activities such as merchandising, activations, coupons, contests, loyalty programmes and can work with creative agencies in designing packaging meant for the retail environment. They are at times more specialised with the retail environment and may be referred to as a Retail Focused Agency. This is a very important type of agency if your business meets the criteria above. They ideally help you in reaching your sales targets as they understand the “path to purchase” and can enhance customer trial through their specialised knowledge. The best example of a retail focused agency I could find in Kenya is Frontier Marketing.

d) Regulated Industries Advertising Agencies

In a tightly regulated environment, you may need a specialised agency that can navigate you through the waters safely. These agencies have a deep knowledge of the regulations in a particular industry and how they can navigate through regulations while promoting your brand against the said code of conduct. Financial advertising agencies, for example, focus on provision of services to those in the financial sector. This may be the case in countries with advanced financial markets and hence highly regulated. Other sectors that may require this type of agency include the legal, construction and architecture, and healthcare sectors.

e) Recruitment Advertising Agencies

This type of agency is highly specialised to serve Human Resource/Capital needs of brands. As the name suggests, they are responsible for sourcing and qualifying the right human resources for your brand. They are good at writing up job descriptions and further can attract the right talent for your brand. Some further provide training to the potential recruits at a fee. Others specialise in specific positions within an organisation such as senior management. An example of a recruitment advertising agency in Kenya is ManPower Services which focusses on executive recruitment.

f) Photo Studio and Film Production Agencies

This type of agency mostly works with all the other types of agencies listed herein. Photo and Film production is an expensive affair and requires a skilled team that may not often be at the disposal of the other agencies. They might also be expensive to keep as staff as film and photo production jobs may come in far and wide. Their very existence therefore is crucial to the marketing and advertising industry. We have a variety of examples of this type of agency including our Studio Division. One I could think of from the top of my mind is Photoshots Kenya.

g) Modelling Agencies

This agency may be closely related to the Photo and Film Production Agency mentioned above. A Modelling Agency may therefore provide the services of Photo and Film Production and vice versa. What are they? Basically, they recruit models that will be used for various advertising campaigns. They are best suited when it comes to handling contracts associated with modelling and save advertising agencies the headache of such contracts. An example of modelling agency in Kenya is Versatile Model & Talent Kenya.

h) Animation (Studios) Agencies

Animation has been around for decades but its use in advertising has risen with the advent of 3D animation. Done the right way, they can be quite immersive and engage the audience hence get attention and induce the desired action. They can also be cheaper compared to film production and can get the same if not better results on the advertising campaign. Examples of animation studios locally are 3de Klub as well as digital artists such as Alosa Arts.

i) Market Research Agencies

Well, there is a difference between market research and marketing research. The former focuses on understanding the larger market in which a brand operates in and then draws conclusions on the entire market in the said area (e.g. country). Marketing research focuses on understanding marketing concepts and proving or disproving theory thereof. Marketing research may be more of academic but may be used and can be used by brands to be ahead of the curve. These agencies may find themselves more in the field of Market Research. They work with brands that seek to understand the market they are entering into. This knowledge can prove to be critical in success of failure of the brand in that market. They can work with other larger agencies in providing research services on behalf of their clients. They can also research other verticals and market research may just be a subset of their services. An example of a Market Research Agencies includes Amethyst Consulting.

j) Print Production Agencies

Just as the name suggests, they focus on print production. They work with all the other agencies in production of various materials including fliers, banners, billboards, packaging material and any other marketing collateral you may think of. Brands can also source the service of such agencies directly without the need of going through the other agencies. This may not be advantageous however if you don’t know how to deal with print agencies. More so if the design agency you work with doesn’t understand the “from design to print” process. Examples of Print Production Agencies aside from our very own Print Division include:

k) Other Agencies

There are other agencies that may be hard to classify or are highly specialised. I’ve included them here as honourable mentions:

  • Limited Service Advertising Agencies – This type of agency exists basically to complement the needs of an in-house agency. They can provide limited services such as media buying or even organising for production.
  • Can Do Agencies – these are agencies with a highly flexible structure. They can plug in resource shortages to meet a specific need that may arise within a brand or as required of them by their client. They are simply agile and nimble enough to meet a wide range of needs.


We will continue updating this comprehensive list as the marketing landscape changes. Feel free to send suggestions to us to include as examples of agencies globally as well as locally.

A Little on Our Branding/Creative Agency, Pulsar Limited

Pulsar is an agency with a multifaceted approach including our very own Studio Division and Print Division.

As a Branding Agency, we offer creative/graphic design services especially in the field of logo design and development (brand identity development). We also offer digital marketing agency services, mobile app UI/UX design & development, rebranding and publication design and printing services. We have grown over the years through building relationships with businesses we partner with.

Our Studio Division specialises in commercial photography with solutions such as product photography for advertising, real estate photography, hospitality photography and much more. You can explore these solutions and projects we’ve undertaken in detail on our commercial photography website.

The Print Division at Pulsar Limited focuses on commercial printing solutions. With a modern digital printing press with print-on-demand & variable data printing solutions, we’ve got your business’ needs covered with. We offer high and consistent quality with a short turnaround. Our printing solutions are also suitable for small businesses looking for short runs (or low printing volumes). You can explore what we print on our commercial printing website.

Understanding how agencies operate can help you as a client settle on the right partner for your business.

Looking for a Branding Agency to Help You Grow Your Business?

At Pulsar, we provide our expertise to your startup and/or existing business. Our branding agency is flexible as we look to building and maintaining relationships with businesses we partner with. Get in touch with us, let us be the agency you work with to build your business.

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