In late July, we took a road trip to attend the Ad Age small agency conference in Portland. (After all, we’re a small agency. It’s good to conference with one another.)
A couple days later, Publicis and Omnicom announced their merger, creating the world’s most gargantuan ad agency.
Quite a contrast. And we feel good about it.
One of the speakers was Deb Gianpoli, Chief Agency Talent Scout for Mondelez. Not too long ago, companies like hers worked exclusively with big agencies. But now, more and more of them are seeing the value of thinking small.
Speaker after speaker extolled the virtues of working with small, independent shops. The neat thing was, the reasons they cited were exactly the reasons we opened Grand:
1. It’s a project-based world. Agency-of-record relationships feel like an artifact from an older, less nimble era. Different projects call for different perspectives, and now, more clients are breaking their communications needs into discrete pieces, and seeking the best partner for each.
2. Creativity is the ultimate advantage. Technology can deliver audiences, but if you can’t engage emotions and imagination, who cares? It takes imagination to captivate imagination. Creativity, artistry and ideas are more valuable than ever. Which leads us to:
3. A great idea can come from anywhere. You don’t need a building full of high salaries to create an idea. You need a few smart people. Often, those people aren’t the ones a big agency has assigned to your project.
4. Even with a big agency, you’re working with a small agency. To staff your business, big agencies put together core teams of 6-8 people. They’re like your own boutique, except the day-to-day people are less experienced, and you pay for five levels of supervisors. Why not just work with a real small agency?
5. The founders still do the work. Most small agencies were founded by top-level creatives wanting to get back to the work. That’s our story. In our big agency days, our clients often got the bait-and-switch of point #4. It didn’t seem honest to us.
6. The amazing budget extender. Great small shops cost less than big shops. They don’t have massive salaries, expensive leases, or holding company fees. You can do more with less money. We can charge a fair price, and make a nice profit, and still come in well below what the big guys would charge.
At the conference, Dan Wieden gave the keynote. At one point, he said, “The giant agencies are wobbling like drunkards…the rest of you should be sharpening your knives.”
Yes, indeed. It’s good to be small.