Jim Lindsey -- who has served as vice chairman at several agencies including Saatchi & Saatchi and Hill Holliday and been honored with over 50 ADDYS, Clios and Golden Quills -- would like all of
us to know that the much-anticipated demise of small ad agencies never actually happened.
He says: "While worldwide mega-agency groups, [like] Saatchi & Saatchi, have continued
to grow, merge, morph, and control more media dollars, the small, independent shops stubbornly remain."
He offers up several reasons why this is so. Most notably, relationships matter. He
notes: "In RFPs, a common question is about the agency's client roster and where the prospect's account would fit in the pecking order. Mattering to an agency's business translates to a certain amount
of leverage, regardless of the added services or bench strength the larger agency promises it would give access to." No surprise there. That bossy client wants to be top dog and that's more easily
accomplished when working with a smaller shop.
Even in the face of a shift back to integration, Lindsey argues that specialization is still valued by brands. He adds: "Very often
advertisers want the particular ingredient for which the small shop excels. It’s not uncommon for marketing departments of larger advertisers to manage several 'boutique' agencies to keep ideas
fresh and flowing."
The advent of the Internet, of course, has been a great equalizer between large and small agencies. As long as a small shop stays current with technology, in many
cases they can compete with agencies twice their size -- provided, of course, the brainpower and desire is equal to the task.
In a nod to the demise of the Mad Men era,
Lindsey says: "The move toward a more accountable approach to client service began in the 90s as accounting systems and MBAs began to take hold. The recent recession cemented this new, more austere
reality. Clients, on the whole, are simply more overhead sensitive nowadays. They know intuitively they will ultimately be paying for all of those assistant’s assistants, lavish offices, and
entertainment. Small- to mid-tier agencies, on the other hand, run leaner operations out of necessity. And smart clients appreciate the obvious stewardship of money -- their money."
matter how many mergers and acquisitions take place, there will always be an entrepreneurial spirit that keeps the small agency alive. That and, well, small clients who want to be treated like Top