Advertising Agency in Germany – or a Freelancer?

Advertising Agency or Freelancer? A nice discussion for the German market

Advertising agency or freelancer? When it comes to advertising your business in Germany, choosing the right partner is crucial. While traditional advertising agencies have been the go-to option for many years, an increasing number of businesses are now considering marketing freelancers as an alternative for some tasks.

Stefan Golling

About the Author

Stefan Golling, Cologne, Germany. Worked since 1998 as a Copywriter and Creative Director in (Network) Agencies and freelances since 2011 as German Freelance Copywriter, Marketing Freelancer, Creative Consultant etc., e.g., in international projects.

Advertsing Agency or Freelancer: an important question

With the ever-evolving digital landscape and fierce competition in the German market, it is crucial to have an effective marketing strategy in place. By partnering with the right professional, you can ensure that your marketing efforts are targeted, impactful, and aligned with your business goals.

In this article, we will explore the differences between advertising agencies and marketing freelancers in Germany.

The Market for Ad Agencies and Marketing Freelancers in Germany

In Germany, you find all major global ad agency networks. The local offices might be huge or smallish, that needs to be checked. We all know that an agency brand not necessarily means that all offices work at the same level.

As Germany is a huge market, we have some homegrown large agency networks as well, and of course boutique agencies which are sometimes highly interesting, think of live communication.

Main cities with good ad agencies in Germany are Hamburg & Berlin (both considered No. 1 when it comes to creativity), Düsseldorf (more efficiency-focussed), Köln / Cologne (more focus on digital, design, live communication), Munich and Frankfurt/Main.

To get an idea on the ad agency landscape in Germany, have a look at the yearly Horizont Kreativranking which lists the most creative agencies based on international ad adwards, i.e. Cannes.

In the digital business, you can consult the “Internetagentur-Ranking” by the BDVW with roughly 200 entries, sorted by revenue.

Marketing and creative freelancers are not very easy to find in Germany, as they mostly cater to their home market audience and don’t have English-language websites.

One additional issue is the lack of freelancers. Freelancing is not extremely popular in Germany, because of a common mindset preferring work-security over independence. Only 8.3% of German employees are self-employed1, which is one of the lowest figures in the world – it’s even lower than in France (12.5%)

Understanding Advertising Agencies and Marketing Freelancers

Pros & Cons of Advertising Agencies:

  • Wide range of services, but that comes at cost: Advertising agencies can provide a comprehensive set of services to meet your advertising needs. From developing brand strategies to creating advertisements for different media channels, they have the expertise to handle all aspects of your campaign. The downside is that you have to pay for the agency big-wigs (i.e., chalets & yachts), the shareholders, and some fancy offices. These overhead costs may pay off when the results of the agency’s work make you extremely successful, but you could also spend the saved money on media or whatnot (i.e., your chalet).
  • Access to a team of experts, but as a black box: By working with an advertising agency, you gain access to a team of professionals who specialize in different areas of advertising. This means you can benefit from their collective knowledge and experience. There might be some issues: First, the expertise may be part of the collective wisdom of the Agency, but no one in the team assigned to you is really an expert. I have some network agency background, and we all know that you will see the pitch team never again, but instead you have to work with junior execs and creatives. And, as your key account person is the gatekeeper, the team behind might change from time to time. You’ll notice the drop in quality, but will pay the same as ever.
  • Larger teams, slower outputs: From briefing to delivery, larger ad agencies are rarely super speedy, as “internal quality control” sometimes steals time. And, in case you don’t book a large monthly retainer, your team might not have time for you when you need it. The agency then will assign a rookie team to you, which might end up in vast amounts of work for you. And, of course, that can happen as well with the retainer.

Pros & Cons of Marketing Freelancers:

  • Business guys for business guys: Freelancers are businesspeople who run their own (small) business – like me. Guys in ad agencies are employees who primarily want to make career (ie., money and/or awards). That’s a fundamental difference in the basic mindset to a freelancer who wants to deliver business results. Believe me, I know both worlds. I worked as a creative director; you don’t find many business-y people below management.
  • One skilled face to the customer: Marketing freelancers often focus on a specific area or niche within marketing or in a business area. You select the person that fits best, book it, work with it directly and pay for it. That’s super straightforward. This small “team” has of course the disadvantage that it doesn’t scale up, as you have to rely on the single human being. In this case, you still can work with agencies, but these agencies don’t need to have vast industry experience – they probably just need to do simple design tasks.
  • Flexibility in project management: Marketing freelancers have to be hands-on, and as they are seasoned professionals, they don’t ask stupid questions or demand excessive briefing material. This makes working with such a freelancer feel like some chimera between internal employee and external partner.
  • Flexibility in project work: If you want to pull the plug from a project, it’s probably not so easy when you’d signed a contract with an ad agency. With a freelancer, you simple say: “OK, we need to adjust major things (and pull the plug).”

In contrast, traditional advertising agencies may involve multiple points of contact and complex decision-making structures, which can impede the speed of communications and responsiveness to evolving project requirements. By choosing a marketing freelancer, you can capitalize on efficient and direct communication channels that empower rapid decision-making and proactive adaptations to dynamic business landscapes.

Making the Right Choice: Finding the Best Advertising Partner for Your Business in Germany

When deciding between an advertising agency and a marketing freelancer, it’s important to think about what your business really needs.

I recommend looking for a freelancer that knows your market, i.e. your competition, in Germany. Some broader industry knowledge might be already enough, as especially market entry strategies are always full of assumptions that have to be tested.

I also recommend people with an agile mindset, as well es cross-cultural skills.

By thinking about all of these things and how they match up with what matters most to your business, you can make a good choice about whether to hire an advertising agency or a marketing freelancer in Germany.

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