The Indie Recipe: A Dash Of Agility And A Spoonful Of Adaptation

Cropped shot of a young woman preparing a meal at home

Ryan Bodger is the Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer at independent agency Now We Collide. In this piece he explains why less is more in 2020.

Last year really debunked a lot of stereotypes we already knew. Millennials and Gen Zs don’t have three second attention spans; younger generations don’t only hangout on Snapchat; and most importantly, audiences don’t sit on one platform all the time.

The fact is, people have many habits. Unsurprisingly, the mind-boggling number of news, media and entertainment options is leading to continued fragmentation.

The need for a big budget TVC is becoming less important. Today, marketing dollars are wasted if they are not paired with a deeper strategy. Brands need to customise their creative and message across a variety of forms, formats and platforms.

It’s all about agility

This kind of thinking certainly isn’t new anymore – but it is proving a real challenge for a lot of large agencies and brands.

And this is where there’s a real advantage to being smaller and independent. In a world turned upside down by COVID-19, the value of moving quickly to plan for different audiences and habits has never been more important.

Being able to quickly tweak the execution at different stages in the user journey increases effectiveness and allows for greater creativity. It’s about understanding where the audiences are, what their habits are, and using real-time data to drive results.

After all – what’s the point in making the best campaign in the world if the wrong people see it?

Our market has been talking about digital transformation a lot, but has collectively been slow to react. This is less of a problem for smaller agencies. Lower headcounts and fewer decision-makers means focusing on streamlining processes is considerably easier.

We know first hand that marketing budgets are being squeezed and we’re all being asked to do more with less. As a general rule, smaller shops tend to have more multi-disciplinary expertise.

For example, account managers who are also producers help cut red tape quicker and at a lower cost of business. The result? Fewer names on the credits list and a more results-driven solution for clients.

Big isn’t always beautiful

If you’ve visited one of their offices, you’ll have got a feel for the layout of a behemoth international agency.

There’s the million-dollar interiors, and at a business level, layer upon layer of bureaucracy. This is the case across even the simpler briefs, which slows down the process and adds unnecessary cost.

In a smaller environment, you will find only those that need to be at the table are sitting there.

There are certainly fewer ECDs looking for their next award-winning idea, in my experience.

Instead, finding an approach that is best for the client is the order of the day.

I’ve also observed that at smaller agencies client managers are less afraid to tell clients that a test and learn period yielded results they didn’t like. And when they do this, a workable solution usually follows promptly.

The best way to achieve set business objectives is to ensure the strategy, creative and actual content producers sit alongside each other and are constantly communicating. This means there’s no disconnect between the strategy, the creative idea and the final assets seen in the market. That’s easier when you’re not dealing with a million stakeholders.

And you don’t need to have a massive budget for your tech stack to produce outstanding work either nowadays. There has been a noticeable democratisation of the tools available across production and editing of late. Now even the smallest shops can have campaigns up and running in half the time and at half the cost – while retaining high production values.

Being able to act quickly and efficiently has one other added benefit. It allows more time to form intimate levels of understanding with the businesses you work with.

Adapt or risk perishing

Last year showed us just how important it was to be able to move quickly.

Smaller agencies did not have to shift legacy processes overnight to counteract a global pandemic. They were on the front foot, proactively helping clients to quickly adapt to the new market environment and chase new opportunities.

One example of this in action occurred during the first few months of 2020. Now We Collide was tasked with moving a massive in-person event to become an online experience.

Within four weeks we had created the House of Instagram , a microsite designed to share the opportunities Instagram has to offer. By employing a small, dedicated team we were able to respond quickly and roll out an online destination, as well as media and content strategy, backed by an array of short-form video.

A silver lining was when this digital activation reached 10 times the number of people than would have attended the physical event. And that’s just one example of the many small shops who did big things for clients in difficult circumstances last year.

Initiatives like this demonstrate why so many indie agencies have survived and even thrived through turbulent times – we’re all constantly focused on reinvention and adaptation anyway.

We’re now seeing old legacy media vessels smashing into the rocks of digital transformation.

And that’s where the name Now We Collide came from. It’s recognising that these two forces were colliding to create a new, important breed of independent agency.


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