The aroma of cologne and coffee fills the air, the palm trees in the corner add a splash of colour to the shade of white mushroom paint, which adorns the walls. Your body slides comfortably into the New York designer chair as the gently quaffed receptionist serves you a chai tea with miniature, almond biscuits.

Yes! You’re in an Ad agency and you’re sitting there wondering if your last bill paid for the palm trees. You also know that in the next five minutes you’re going to be confronted by strategists, creatives and designers.

It’s a mad world in agency land and it’s very much misunderstood. First and foremost one has to realise that personal opinions about how one promotes their business has no place in creating organisations. Let’s take the colour of your logo as an example. The fact that you don’t like blue has nothing to do with creating customers when 92% of the consumer market believes it’s a friendly, responsive colour. Worse for the agency, and the client showing your friends the colour and asking their opinion is an absolute waste of time and energy because they’ll just love to agree with you. They have no more idea of marketing a brand than a flight in outer space, but their your friends.

Working with an agency is a terrifying prospect for some businesses and it certainly can be overwhelming but trust me when I say that in most cases agencies know their stuff and in 90% of cases they’ll put you on the right track. The really scary part is that most client’s know as little about marketing as their friends, especially in this digital age, consequently they have to trust the agency completely. That means understanding the agency first and feeling comfortable with the people you deal with.

So here’s the good oil. Don’t be distracted by the ambience and designer furniture, those things are there to position the agency as successful and creative. Look deeper, use your empathy and your ‘gut’ to read the people you’ll deal with. It is their expertise, their experience, their acumen you are paying for, not the palm trees in reception. Be certain they know the consumer, assure yourself they understand the media, and importantly ask for their strategy and the rationale.

It’s OK for an agency to look good, to have the ambience of success but that’s all dressing – it’s the people who count. Remember always, you are buying their brains not their wallpaper.