You've tried to work things out with your advertising agency. But it's clearly time for a change or time to take your advertising in-house. So how do you break the bad news? We asked those who've been there -- on both sides of the fence.

When's the right time to fire an ad agency? "When it's not giving you service or the creative isn't good enough," says Margaret Rodenberg, vice-president of sales and marketing at Viteq Corp., in Lanham, Md. Recommendation: Do the deed quickly, preferably at the end of a campaign.

How should it be done? "In person, and the guy who did the hiring should do the firing," says Gary Garkowski, VP of marketing at Chep USA, a national renter of wooden pallets in Park Ridge, N.J. Recommendation: Deliver the news face to face, if possible at the agency's offices; follow up in writing.

Must the agency hand over all marketing material? "Once all the bills have been paid, you're entitled to all mechanicals, TV footage, and so on. You're not entitled to creative never used, unless that's included in the contract," says Snowden McFall, president of Brightwork Advertising, in Nashua, N.H. Recommendation: Get what you paid for.

What kind of confidentiality can I expect? "Basically none, unless you've signed a confidentiality agreement," says Martha O'Gorman, director of communications at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, in Virginia Beach, Va. Recommendation: Get it in writing.

Should I find a new agency beforehand? Yes, says Rodenberg: "It's going to take 60 to 90 days to find someone new." No, says O'Gorman: "You risk your agency firing you." Recommendation: Proceed with caution. -- Susan Greco

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