Opinion: Perspective - New entrepreneurs show adland in goodhealth

So far this year we've had Dave Dye, Jorian Murray, Justin Holloway, Paul Belford; now David Pattison, Andy Bellas, Jon Williams.

All have put careers and livelihoods on the line to take a stake both in their own businesses and in the future of the ad industry. Whether this rush is simply the tangible effects of New Year, New Me professional resolutions, or real evidence that the advertising climate is warming up for the nascent impresario, there's no denying that quite a few of the industry's senior talent have caught the entrepreneurial bug.

From the early evidence, I think it's fair to say that there are significant signs the time is ripe for new companies (and new types of company) to flourish in the industry. For a start, the industry is clearing the recessionary doldrums. Last week, there emerged the first real shoots of sustainable growth in advertising expenditure in the IPA's Bellwether Report. Meanwhile, the Advertising Association is predicting 36 per cent growth in adspend right through to 2018. So there's likely to be more pickings for young, hungry agencies.

Then, too, this week's IPA Census figures show a new buoyancy in industry employee levels and a flourishing freelance marketplace. Advertising is clearly fast becoming (again) a sector in robust health, albeit one where the centre of gravity for expansion is shifting: a significant proportion of the new growth has come from the digital sector.

So it's not surprising some senior execs are being encouraged to take advantage of the upturn. More to the point, though, if ever there was a time to fashion a new type of agency, this is it. The industry seems agreed that the old agency model is, essentially, broken and a new approach is required to serve the changing communications landscape. So far, so hackneyed.

But despite the cliches, it's fair to say that the way the industry is developing no longer demands a successful agency to have hundreds of employees and neat hierarchical structures. The opportunity for dispensing with some of the old-style agency baggage and recrafting a business model around a media-neutral, digital-savvy offering is enormous and a big-name start-up can soar with a lean, flexible approach.

Mind you, some of adland's newest entrants are over-exerting themselves to claim convoluted "new" positionings, because of course it would be deeply unfashionable to launch a traditional ad agency in the current climate of exciting change. And it's hard not to be sceptical about the ability of some of these eager new entrepreneurs to change their spots.

On the other hand, it's extremely healthy for the industry to see a surge in new companies and entrepreneurial spirit. For too long, too many of adland's big talents have been frustrated by their jobs, their agencies and the burdens of holding company demands, but haven't had the balls to go it alone; and the comfort blanket of the big agency big salary has proved a shackle through the uncertainties of the advertising depression.

The challenge now passes to clients, though, to surrender some of their own comfort blankets (like the multiple decision-making that results in a combination of crippling inaction and mediocrity) and embrace some of the ad market's new offerings.

For all that ad agencies now realise their model needs fixing, and are investing time, money and talent in doing exactly that, too many clients are still emotionally locked in to their own silos and risk-averse procedures.

But great advertising and brilliant big ideas that come alive across all media need the support of clients willing to themselves embrace change. Just as advertising's new entrepreneurs will live or die on their ability to match their years of experience with a real understanding of how the industry is changing, so it's the brave clients with their own entrepreneurial adrenaline that will really emerge as the brand winners in the new comms world.

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