Many marketers like the idea of “going local” when searching for a new agency.  They feel like they need to have their agency next door and feel like they need to have them there whenever they feel the need.  I agree, it is comforting to know that the person you so trust with the object you value most (your brand) is just a stone’s throw away from sitting across the desk.

But there are some dangers that you should be aware of.

Back in 1985 I worked for DDB Needham and we had the Sears account – located just blocks from our location on Wacker Drive in Chicago.  Seemed like we were there every day.  Talking tactics, diving down deep into the flash of the new campaign.  But problem was, they did little to take the step back (and honestly we did very little to encourage them to take the step back) and look at the bigger picture of what we were creating – another false sense of hope for the consumer.  We were so dragged down into the weeds of the tactics that we failed to step back and realize that no matter how great our tag line was, how great the creative was…the stores still didn’t fulfill the promise of a great shopping experience.

Blame it on location or blame it on the client (or the agency), I’ve seen this same phenomena happen with other marketers and other firms.  Not saying you can’t work well with a good local agency, but by having somebody so close to home, there’s a natural tendency to “direct” versus let the agency strategize and help guide.  The more they can take the step back and the more they can feel like they aren’t being pulled through the relationship, the more value you’re likely to get out of them.

So whether close to home, or half way across the country…try and keep yourself out of the weeds.

The next time you’re on an agency search, look at how the agency addresses the challenges you pose.  Do they dive down into tactics, or are they bigger picture thinkers?  Look at their other relationships and ask them about how they work with those clients.  Profiling how these other clients operate will signal how they might operate with you.