What is an agency? Definition and examples

An agency is a business, firm, or organization that provides a specific service. Often, but not always, agencies work on behalf of another group, business, or person.

We also use the term when describing an intervention or action that produces a particular effect. As in ‘Steep valleys carved by the agency of flowing water.’

AdExchanger quotes Steven Farella who said that historically, agencies were companies that were responsible for message development. Specifically, message development and also message delivery of a marketer’s campaign. Farella is Chairman and CEO of Maxxcom Global Media Group and Target Cast tcm.

Today, however, the term includes many different types of entities.

Agency types

In the private sector today, we have advertising agencies, employment agencies, and travel agencies.

Government agencies, for example, are part of the public sector. In fact, some employment agencies belong to the government; therefore, they may also be in the public sector.

The term ‘agency’ has many possible meanings. In the worlds of business and government, however, the term always refers to a specialized entity.
Advertising agency

Advertising agencies, ad agencies, or creative agencies are firms that focus on creating, planning, and handling advertising. They may also undertake other forms of marketing and promotion on behalf of clients.

Advertising is the business of attracting consumers’ attention and encouraging them to buy a product or service.

Although a typical advertising agency does things for a client, it is independent of the client. In other words, it does not belong to the client.

Wikipedia says the following:

“It may be an internal department or agency that provides an outside point of view to the effort of selling the client’s products or services, or an outside firm.”

“An agency can also handle overall marketing and branding strategies promotions for its clients, which may include sales as well.”

Employment agency

Employment agencies match employees to employers or workers to jobs. In most countries, they exist both in the public and private sectors. In other words, they may be private businesses or publicly-funded entities.

Employment agencies in the private sector may represent either the job seeker or employer. In other words, they may be trying to fill vacancies or finding employment for job seekers.

Headhunters are agencies that seek out high-flying executives or highly-skilled professionals for employers.

Government agency

Government agencies are permanent or semi-permanent organizations in the machinery of government. We sometimes call them state agencies.

Typically, government agencies are responsible for the oversight and administration of certain functions.

The FDA or Food and Drug Administration is a US federal agency. It is in charge of medical devices, tobacco products, medications, foods, and cosmetics.

Before a drug company can market a new medication, it applies to the FDA for approval. This is a very long process.

Travel agency

Travel agencies sell travel and tourism-related services to consumers. It is, therefore, a retailer.

Travel agencies sell things on behalf of suppliers such as airlines, cruise lines, and hotels. They also sell on behalf of transportation companies, travel insurers, and package tour operators.

Most travel agents, especially large ones, have two departments. One department focuses on tourism while the other sells to business travelers. Some agencies, on the other hand, specialize in one or the other, i.e., tourism or business travel.

Bricks and mortar travel agents were once common in every high street. They existed next door to grocers, department stores, and clothes shops.

Since the advent of the Internet and e-commerce, a growing number of consumers are buying their travel requirements online. In many cases, they bypass the travel agent and purchase directly from the airline, hotel chain, etc.

E-commerce means doing business, i.e., buying and selling things, online. The term stands for ‘electronic commerce.’

News agency

News agencies gather news reports and sell them to newspapers and magazines. They also sell new reports and articles to radio/tv broadcasters and other news organizations.

Some people refer to these agencies as wire services, news services, and newswires.

The most famous news agencies are Associated Press (AP) and Agence France-Presse (AFP). Reuters is also a famous news agency.