Big brands are realising more and more that when it comes to their agency rosters, specialised is good and big is bad, so it’s time we talked about it, says the CEO of brand activation agency April5, Alicia Beachley.
It’s almost 20 years since Gordon Gecko famously proclaimed ‘greed is good’ in Wall Street’s big world of big business, big banks, big deals and big dollars. Oh how times have changed.
Two decades on, small and specialised is the new big.
Big brands are increasingly recognising that when it comes to their agency rosters, specialised is good.
Smaller agencies are punching above their weight and not only making a big difference – but the returns too. ‘One size fits all’ doesn’t cut it in today. Gone are the days of the ‘one stop shop’, the single big agency as the Jack or Jill of all trades (and potentially master or mistress of none), fulfilling all a brand’s communications, strategic and creative needs.
There has been a massive shift in the mindset of brands as they increasingly seek out smaller specialists to their rosters – in some cases, dozens of them. From app development to event management, search to research, analytics to brand activation, clients are working with smaller specialists, in addition to, rather than in place of, their lead agencies. Small is stealthy – happily and quietly co-existing on the roster.
Why the change? Technology, specialisation, disruption and diversification have created a smorgasbord of options for brands, but there’s more to it than increased choice.
The emergence of these new specialists has coincided with a growing willingness from brands to look for more than size and scale as they recognise you can’t measure the quality of an agency by the size of its payroll or trophy cabinet.
Big brands aren’t just cherry picking the skills and input they want – they’re looking for solid relationships, regardless of size.
Agency-client relationships don’t need to be hard for the client, but too often, they are – often because of onerous structures, oversights and overpromising.
Being smaller makes it easier to forge and foster enduring client relationships. Successful small and specialised agencies give big brands something they crave: Simplicity – not in the work, but in the way they work.
Small and specialised can give more dedicated, personalised service. It’s like the agency version of the de-clutter movement. Trim the excess, the layers of complication and duplication and strip it back – forgo size and scale and focus on quality, not quantity.
Specialised means experienced leaders – usually the owners – are hands-on, working on a brand day to day, not just making the odd guest appearance after pitch meetings.
Being helmed by a founder, independent and not beholden to shareholders and holding company targets and expectations means a streamlined operation and a well-defined culture.
Specialised makes it easier to tell it how it is. We call it as we see it. We make things easy for clients, not harder – we cut the crap, the jargon, the bureaucracy, the layers and the revolving door of new faces so we can focus on solutions and executional excellence.
Specialised sees the big picture – and can respond quickly. Small gets ideas up, not bogged down.
In the end, it’s not the size of the agency that matters. It’s the quality of the idea and the willingness and ability to deliver on it that counts. The commitment. The strength of the relationship. And the executional excellence – because no matter what the size, a good idea, done badly, is a bad idea.