working towards great client service

Advertising agency, do I need them? From the point of view of a small business

“I’m still stuck in the traffic jam. Will be there in 10 minutes”, Christina texted to me after I sent her a message about my arrival in her store on Pasteur Street. Wandering in Ipa-Nima store, my eyes were totally attracted by this brochure placed on the receptionist desk. I approached the receptionist to ask about the brochure and acknowledged that this actually belongs to the advertising postcards of the new collection of Ipa Nima namely the Gatsby Glamorous.


One picture in the Gatsby Glamorous Photo shoot, reproduced from Ipa Nima’s Facebook page (I wish I remembered to bring the one that I saw in store to took photo and posted here)

“I’m so sorry to let you wait so long, Khanh”, Christina came in with a warm smile. After a few greetings, I took the brochure I had just seen and followed Christina to her office. Right after sitting down, I took the brochure out and questioned Christina which advertising agency did this postcards for them since I could not hold my curiosity any more. Surprisingly, “actually we didn’t hire any agency to do advertising for us. It’s our own idea to advertise for this new collection”, Christina gently answered. Suddenly, questions about advertising direction for a small business is full of my mind and it soon became the main topic in my interview with Mrs. Christina Yu, Creative Director from Ipa-Nima.

Is advertising on magazine is really effective for small fashion brand?

Showing my curiosity towards advertising tools used by Ipa-Nima, Christina paused in a moment and said “Actually, in terms of advertising for new collection, I usually hire professional photographers and models to do a photo shoot, then pitch the editors of some fashion magazines to get a publish page.” Normally, after doing the photo shoot, Christina would make these photos on postcards, point-of-sale artworks in her shops and send to their customers in order to enable them have visual experience towards the concept of the new collection.  According to Vaccaro & Kassaye (1988), advertising on newspaper or magazine is considered as the greatest advertising expenditure to most small retail business. Nevertheless, when sharing her thoughts relating using this advertising tool, Christina actually showed her doubt towards the effectiveness of that tool. When open a magazine, you normally see hundreds of advertisements of various brands and when reading the magazine, readers tend to skip through the advertisement pages so it’s really difficult to attract the attention of our target audience even if our ideas used to advertise for new collection is great. Adding to her perception about advertising on magazine, Christina explained that to most Vietnamese magazines, they really concern about who they advertise on their magazines so choosing models to present my products is extremely important.

Christina strongly believes that opening an in-store event is a more effective way to advertise for my collections because customers have chance to have actual experience towards my collection. Additionally, Christina also prefers to promote for her brand by using one of the phenomenon in advertising, which is social media. If you buy my bag and you really like it then you tell your friend on Facebook of how much you love it as well as the recommendations for my friends to visit the store. That would be an effective personal communication level.


Mrs. Christina Yu at the launch of Gatsby Glamorous Collection 2013, reproduced from Ipa Nima’s Facebook

Hiring an advertising agency: is it a NEED?

Yes. I think hiring an agency to do an advertising plan is such a great ideas, at least for corporate companies or business that opens around 40 to 50 stores globally. Unfortunately, Ipa-Nima is still a small business and I don’t think hiring advertisers is feasible for my brand at this time. Asking for further reasons why she thought hiring advertising agency is not necessary, Christina shared with me her experience when working with an agency once. Although having no experience in working with Vietnamese agencies, Christina used to hire an agency to advertise for her collection in Japan and USA. After working with them, she realized what they did actually could be done by employees in her company. Being more specific, they represent for my company to pitch ideas of our photo shoot to the editors, approach event organizers to have a showcase for our new collection. Ultimately, she figured out that hiring advertisers might not make any significant influence towards decision of magazine editors or event organizers whether they accept her advertisement for the new collection published on magazines. She added to her point that her employees can win an acceptance of the editors if they effectively utilized people in their network. More importantly, for small fashion business as Ipa-Nima, there is no need for too many advertising activities to hire advertising agency. Even though magazine advertising is not effective as she supposes, however, it is actually the mainstream advertising tool for her business.

Since Ipa-Nima is still a small business, which does not allow the company to allocate staffs into different department so basically, my Sale Manager is in charge of both boosting sale and preparing promotional activities when launching new collection so sometimes I seriously consider hiring an agency to help her with advertising and marketing stuffs unless the expenditure on hiring them is less expensive. Relating to financial issues of small business in desire of hiring an agency, Cookson (2013) declares that some agencies tend not to prefer signing contract with small business. He explains that lower financial investment from small business might be the core reason why big agencies unlikely to work with them. Cookson suggests that working with marketing consultant is also a great idea than working with advertising agencies.

After all, Christina admitted that she did hire an agency to do branding for Ipa-Nima because developing brand is indeed a complex task that requires deep research about phenomenon in the industry (Magloff 2013). For any fashion-related business, branding is an extremely activity to position your brand in customer’s mind as well as in the market. Normally, branding is no need to happen every year but after each 3 to 4 year, updating brand image is necessary. Although Christina provided several reasons of not necessary to work with advertising agency, however, branding is not an easy thing that any small business can do effectively. For that reason, she has to ask for support from advertising agency to ensure the process is run smoothly and effectively.


(Mrs. Christina Yu and me, taken by her staff)

Word count: 1094

Author: Do Huynh Phuong Khanh – s3324406


Cookson, P 2013, “Advertising agency for small business”, Ad Army Group, viewed 12th May 2013, <>.

Magloff, L 2013, “The advantages of using an advertising agency”, Houston Chronicle, viewed 12th May 2013, < >.

Vaccaro, J.P & Kassaye, W.W 1988, “Increasing the advertising effectiveness of small retail business”, Entrepreneur: Practice & Theory, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 41 – 47.


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One thought on “Advertising agency, do I need them? From the point of view of a small business

  1. -“so choosing models to present my products is extremely important.” AGREE

    -Hey! What happened… it ended so abruptly! I was really interested in hearing about your wrap-up of the interview… what did you take away from it? Summarize tips client managers can do to make sure they are able to satisfy the needs of ‘SMALL BUSINESS’… What should they do in order to convince businesses like Ipa-Nima to consider them as potential Trusted Partners?

    -In general, lots of potential… the topic is clear, but needs to be developed further to make the article come out with various specific take-away related to client management topics.

    ~Mel C

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