For clients, size does not matter
Displaying a newfound confidence, independent agencies have begun to realise that they can satisfy brands in ways larger network rivals cannot.
For the past seven years, thenetworkone has published this annual collection of essays with Campaign. We ask contributors to write a piece that will be interesting to read and reflects their values, without being a sales pitch.
We don’t prescribe a specific theme or tone of voice.
So how the mood of the publication changes each year is revealing. In the past, it has often been quite defiant. “Why should the networks have all the fun? Independents are just as good.”
This year, the mood is different. It’s one of confidence.
Confidence that an independent agency can handle a major global advertising account, in a better way than a traditional network.
Confidence to form a new agency that reinvents the concept of a PR company.
Confidence to do what’s right, not only what is profitable. To scour the world for new ideas. And technologies. To spend time on a client’s business, beyond the billable hours.
Confidence to experiment, knowing that, in the age of big data, it’s easier to see what really changes customer behaviour; and confidence in the agency’s ability to react quickly and alter course, when things don’t go perfectly.
The traditional networks and holding companies answer back: “It’s all about scale. China is a big place and if you don’t have several hundred employees, you won’t succeed.” But they are wrong.
Scale is important for some things. It’s important in buying mass media, where the networks score well; and in buying digital media, where the fleet-of-foot exchanges are eating their lunch at a rapid rate.
But scale drives commoditisation: the enemy of creativity (and of agency profit margins). Scale does not make you smart.
To sell smart, you have to think smart. Be knowledgeable, perceptive, entrepreneurial and agile, and deliver something the competition hasn’t yet discovered.
Let me end with a personal anecdote.
Last month, I visited Myanmar for the first time – the country that has been effectively closed off to the West for most of the past ten years. No credit cards, no Western mobiles… no Procter & Gamble, no Coca-Cola.
I hailed a taxi in Yangon. The driver only spoke around ten words of English, so we started on that universal topic of conversation: football. “Who your team?” “Tottenham Hotspur.” “Ah, Tottenham… Gareth Bale!” Now, Tottenham doesn’t even play in the Champions League and, last year, no-one had heard of Bale.
But this season, he has perfected a technique of bending the ball upwards and downwards (not sideways like Beckham) and it beats goalkeepers every time. Intelligent, enterprising, unique and successful.
The taxi driver in Yangon is our consumer today. Read the pages of this publication and decide for yourself who is the next Gareth Bale.
Julian Boulding is president of thenetworkone
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