Small might just be the new big

It must be nice at those big agencies, I think.  To have teams of writers, planners,  executives, designers, divisions, groups, juniors, seniors, vice-presidents, CFO’s, CEO’s, COO’s, principals and the like.  But I think smaller shops have become increasingly popular in the era of the Big Dumb Agencies, as dear George Parker describes them. I have a few suspicions why:

1.  Nimble.  Because we don’t have a lot of people to get in the way of progress, we can turn on a dime for a client. They like that.

2. Loyal. Genuinely and to a fault. We need our precious clients to be successful, or else we’ll cease to exist. So we tend to act like we’re their partner.  And really, we are.

3. Honest. Maybe too much at times. The rest of my team jokes about how “blunt” I can be with a client. Hey, if their hours suck, their staff is surly, the inventory dated, or the prices too high, someone needs to tell them…might as well be a “partner”.  I care.  (See Number 2.)

4. Efficient. Time is money.  We’re small and don’t have the luxury of waxing poetic about a piece of creative for months.  We study the issues and then work hard to sell something. Isn’t that what advertising is supposed to do, after all?

5. Hungry.  We don’t eat till someone sells something. And we all know it, so we take nothing for granted.

6. Cost-conscious. Small agencies “feel the pain” of our small clients.  We have to make money, but we don’t nickle and dime a client for every breath we take on their behalf.

7. Ego-less. Well, somewhat. If you think you’re the smartest one in the group, then you can’t work in a small shop.  Arrogance just doesn’t work.  Collaboration does.

There is no corner on creativity and problem solving. The layoffs are many in big agencies, and sadly, some iconic firms are closing their doors. All the while, here in Hooterville, we are busy, enjoying the creative process, raising our families in a sweet small town, designing, writing, producing and living.  Sure, we endure the same client crap, just on a smaller scale. And true, we’re not creating the image for a big national brand where there is so much at stake, but I do believe we could have developed a better Pepsi Logo…and for a lot less money.



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7 Responses to “Small might just be the new big”

  1. Muonwar Says:

    “We study the issues and then work hard to sell something. Isn’t that what advertising is supposed to do, after all?” When you’re right, AdChick, you’re right!

  2. jeff Says:

    Reading this made me stop and think. I then realized something horrible. One agency I worked at, that is global now, used to be a small local agency. It got bought up by one of the big holding companies. The problem is even when I worked there and we were 250+ people in our office, it still tried to run like a small agency and still does.

    There in lies the problem, you can’t have it both ways. Trying to do things quick when you have all the layers just makes the late nights and last second changes happen more and more.

  3. phillybikeboy Says:

    re: 3. Honest. Of course, that’s a big part of the job. An ad can promise, but the brand has to deliver on that promise. Just as an accountant would never advise you to write a check you don’t have the funds to cover, an agency has to tell a client not to make a promise they can’t keep.

  4. Andy Webb Says:

    Truth, Adchick. These thoughts must have taken shape while two-wheeling down the highway.

  5. adchick Says:

    ANDY! How’d you guess! 🙂

  6. Jake Says:

    Bingo, Adchick. I think what often gets lost on companies being serviced by BDAs is that the pitch to secure their business is being done by the big hitters, but the actual work is being done by inexperienced people far down the food chain. In the SSA (that would be Small Smart Agency), there’s no room for bait-n-switch.

    As a freelance copywriter, I am often stunned at the lazy garbage that my wife’s company pays top dollar to get from their agency…and, yes, in keeping with your Pepsi logo analogy, pained by the knowledge that my loose confederation of creatives could do a far more effective job for far less money. But, it’s been a busy year and I like my clients, so no whining allowed.

  7. Teenie Says:

    Fellow small agency-ite here. I did the BDA route and never looked back after I left. Although our little agency will probably never head to Cannes or get a big write-up in some industry mag, we’re a good, honest, hard-working bunch. The owners are family men who believe in a work/life balance. Everyone gets to work on everything–there’s no game playing or butt kissing to get in on the good stuff.

    I’ve never felt so at home anywhere–or was part of such great work. So the BDAs can keep their egos and their late nights and their public accolades. I truly enjoy coming to work every day. What more can you ask for?

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