The World's Leading Independent Agencies: The rise of the independents

Creative entrepreneurs are increasingly challenging the agency behemoths for the top place at the client's table.

The growing trend for advertisers to assign major multinational accounts to independent agencies is a topic of real interest to advertising and marketing professionals. The time is right for an in-depth analysis.

The world's best independent agencies: who are they? What makes them different - and better than traditional networks? Who is choosing to work with them, and why?

Campaign and thenetworkone have joined together to produce this special supplement, looking for answers.

It is not a directory or a definitive list. There are others who have a claim too: Mother, Australie & Scher Lafarge, 10AM Asia, Tugboat ... but there's no doubt in our mind the agencies in this report are among the very best.

They include 180 Amsterdam and Taxi, the two top fully independent agencies in the Gunn Report; Kolle Rebbe, the first German agency ever to reach the top 15; VCCP, winner of the latest UK IPA Grand Prix for advertising effectiveness; Duval Guillaume, last year's Eurobest creative agency of the year; StrawberryFrog, the original global hotshop from Amsterdam, now storming New York; plus clear "class leaders" from Scandinavia (Forsman & Bodenfors), Italy (Lorenzo Marini & Associati) and Australia (Belgiovane Williams Mackay).

Walk into any of these agencies and you feel a buzz, an informality, an energy level that's quite different from the nearest outpost of a traditional multinational network.

Independent agencies represent the future of our business, because they are the agencies most clients want to work with.

Clients today demand the same speed, flexibility, cost efficiency and creative thinking from their agencies as they do from their own people and the other suppliers and business partners.

They want yachts, not supertankers. Creative entrepreneurs, not bureaucrats.

Check the Agency Assessments International survey, where only 4 per cent of multinational clients believed they got better service from multinationals than independents. Or Campaign's 2005 new-business winners' table: the top ten included five independents, three micro-networks and only two multinationals (DDB and McCann).

Ten years ago, this would have been impossible. In the pre-digital age, multinational companies needed agencies with fixed, owned networks to disseminate their advertising and keep a watch on what their local management was doing with it. They used tapes, documents, faxes and colour film, and it all consumed thousands of man hours per year.

Today, systems such as Aprimo allow instant distribution of creative assets, sharing of best practices, customisation of materials, print-on-demand and rapid reporting of the activities, successes and failures of local activation agencies.

Thenetworkone delivers the rest: the global contacts, resources, management systems and cross-cultural expertise for the best independent agencies to compete on an equal level with the giant multinational agency networks.

Our international account directors work with more than 200 agencies and specialists in 60 countries, "custom building" networks of agencies with complementary skills and locations around the individual needs of marketing clients, with genuine accountability for the results.

This short collection of articles hopes to convey some of the energy, talent, originality and also diversity which you will find in independent agencies today. If you like what you read, log on, let us know and join the dialogue.

Be part of the future.

- Julian Boulding is President of thenetworkone julian.boulding@thenetworkone.com.

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