Claire Beale: Why start-ups deserve the industry's support
A view from Claire Beale

Claire Beale: Why start-ups deserve the industry's support

Two conversations with senior clients this week on the subject of young agencies.

The first went a little like this: "I'm desperate for some new energy on my brand and think an ambitious young agency might try harder to be more innovative." And the second: "It would be a struggle to persuade my board to take a risk on an unproven agency ... don't quote me on that, though, will you."

The second client wasn't much in the mood for that sort of struggle; he said his job was tough enough as it was right now without taking unnecessary risks.

As it happens, the subject came up because both clients are in the middle of reviewing their creative accounts. Given their comments, my money is on one of them choosing an agency still in start-up mode and the other picking a well-established player. Either way, any client who thinks that appointing a young agency would be too risky doesn't deserve brave advertising.

As our feature on page 26 highlights, the ad industry has been richly rewarded with start-ups over the past few years. Not all are heading for the big time, yet even those with modest prospects are proving that this is a business that can still breed entrepreneurs and nurture small, lean agencies. And I bet most of these young companies are providing decent incomes for their founders and, perhaps more importantly, offering stimulating, interesting places to work where everyone can make a difference and see the value of their contribution. Crucially, they are also challenging the rest of the market and giving clients more, and more interesting, alternatives.

Maybe there's another Adam & Eve-like success story brewing in this pack of start-ups. Maybe not. Whatever, there's still plenty to celebrate and support in the rich supply of new agencies that have got off the ground in such a tough economic climate.

Anyone with the balls to launch their own company and make enough of a success of it that they do good work for their clients, offer interesting employment opportunities and help a bunch of people pay the mortgage has made a real contribution to the industry.

It doesn't always work out, of course - and the sorry story of Rapier's demise (page 15) has been all the more shocking because it's relatively rare for a famous agency to slump into administration. The agency's decline has prompted quite a lot of sniping. But for a fair part of the past couple of decades, this was a shop proving that entrepreneurialism can thrive in the ad industry and offer a fresh alternative to those networked agencies backed by the giant holding companies.

We need start-ups and we need entrepreneurs who are prepared to fail. I hope that at least one of the clients I spoke to this week gives a young agency their business.