BECKETT NODAL, COPYWRITER
Ogilvy & Mather. Chiat Day. 72 and Sunny. Wieden + Kennedy. BBDO. IDEO. Droga5.
We know all about the big dogs of advertising. They have legions of bright creative and account minds, impeccable facilities and budgets that may eclipse all your clients’ budgets combined. We have all seen and recognize the brilliant and culturally pervasive work they have created over the years. But what about all of the other agencies out there doing great work?
Today we salute the small independent shops, the little guys doing big things, digging deep to create the best ads possible, even though they may face shortages of time, budget or personnel. These are the shops taking on unique challenges and clients.
While small, independent agencies may be vastly different from each other in many ways, there are a few key shared characteristics that we believe account for the success they’ve experienced.
Small agencies usually run somewhat lean. This can be good for many reasons, including the lack of bureaucracy and ease of internal communication, which make for especially responsive work. As CEO of Small Agency of the Year winner, Terri & Sandy, Sandy Greenberg says, “Creative people run the company and we communicate, approve things and make decisions fast.”
Of course the behemoth darlings of the major holding companies produce great creative work. No question about that. Small independent agencies are different though. There is no room for filler. Each piece of work requires the same amount of dedication and because the volume is lower, each project is scrutinized that much more carefully. The reputation of a smaller shop rides on everything that goes out the door. As Humanaut states on their website. “Life is short, so if it can’t be great, it’s probably not worth doing.”
As mentioned earlier, part of the small independent experience is stark accountability. These agencies must “…take the next step and prove beyond any doubt that they contribute to a client’s business results. There’s no faking it,” as PJA CEO, Phil Johnson put it. Strangers and nine-to-fivers need not apply. The independent agency is a place for those who are committed to being an integral part of the equation.
BSSP CEO Greg Stern gives sage advice regarding this attribute, “Build a team where you create something bigger than the sum of its parts.” A close-knit group communicates more effectively and relies on each other frequently to accomplish difficult tasks. Independent agencies are poised to excel in this area because of their smaller numbers but it doesn’t happen by itself.
Consider yourself lucky if you are counted among those in the independent arena. It’s not that it can be a challenge, we’re counting on it to be one, because we like solving problems. And we like doing so in a creative and original way, even when the odds aren’t in our favor. So to all you small independents out there, keep up the heartfelt, intense, surprising and compelling work and enjoy the opportunity to experience a career most can only dream of.