Why an indie agency delivers more for clients.

Brother & Co Creative Director Andrew Thompson was a panellist at AdNews Live Brisbane, discussing the agency landscape in 2021 and beyond. A big part of the debate was the rise of the independent and what it means for clients and network agencies. Here are Thommo's Thoughts.

Having worked across network agencies across Australasia, in-house with clients and now at Brisbane’s leading independent, I feel I’m uniquely placed to offer my thoughts. So here are my Top 10 reasons why an independent agency is a better partner for clients:

1. Direct access to the thinkers on your business

Sometimes all you want to do is pick up the phone and call the ECD with a thought about the work. Or grab a coffee with the Strategist and chat through an opportunity. With some other agencies, there’s a process and protocol to follow that often includes one or more of the following – Account Exec/Account Manager/Account Director/Group Account Director…you get the idea.

We reckon it works better if you’re dealing directly with the thinkers on your business – that way there’s no room for miscommunication, you get to use the brains you bought into in the first place, and decisions get made so much quicker.

2. No red tape

Also known as just getting on with it.

We did a pretty cool thing for our client the Australian Road Safety Foundation in January that basically slowed down songs on Spotify to remind people to slow down around School Zones. (Case study here)

If we had presented this idea at a network agency in Sydney, there would have been a minimum 12 month lead time to get approvals from around the globe/corporate partner presentations/ media optimisation etc.

We had the idea approved just before going away for Christmas 2020 and it was live in the world when the kids went back to school in January 2021. Sometimes you just need to get on with it.

3. It’s not all about the money

Sure, indie agencies have a business to run, salaries to be paid, banks to placate. But they’re not consumed by the numbers. It doesn’t dictate every decision.

Rather, we take pleasure in seeing our clients succeed, and have a genuine passion for the work we do. It’s meant to be fun remember.

4. A better Workflow Management System

I think I’ve experienced every kind of workflow system from my time in network agencies and client-side. I’m yet to find a good one that recognises we’re not in the accounting business, and understands that agencies are fundamentally built on organised chaos.

Our Workflow Management System starts with a chat in the morning to see what the day looks like and who’s doing what. Then we go and do it. If something changes during the day, we have another quick chat and work out a plan. And we don’t send Instant Status Updates over email, we just shout across the room. It’s not rocket science.

5. Less buzzwords and BS

Most big agencies have their proprietary tools and the buzzwords that come with them. I’ve often had to toe the company line and passionately advocate the Brand Asset Disruption Index was a key tool in our process and should be paid for accordingly.

Yes, we have a process and a way of working that we believe works. But there’s no BS and no overly complex diagrams. (Kurt does sometimes stray into Ritson’s Distinctive Brand Codes, but we find a quick kick under the table normally puts a stop to that.)

6. We’re not trying to sell you something

Do you ever get the feeling that some agencies already know the answer before you’ve even briefed them? If your agency has invested heavily in Custom Website Tracking tech and the team to deliver it, you can be pretty sure Custom Website Tracking is going to feature pretty heavily in their recommendation on where to spend your money*.

We take a much more open-minded view on each client problem and provide an independent opinion on what we think is right for the brand or business.

7. We’ll stretch your budgets further

As marketing budgets continue to shrink, clients are looking for smarter ways to stretch their money further. And for many clients, that means avoiding the layers of mediocrity that network agencies have. You know you’re paying for all those people sitting in your WIP meeting right?

We also find that our production partners like to work with independent agencies, not some multinational trying to screw them down on every job. Many of them actually give us lower rates for the joy of collaboration, which we can then pass on to our clients. Go figure.

8. The Ringelmann Effect

It’s on Wikipedia so it’s really a thing. Basically, it’s ‘the tendency for individual members of a group to become increasingly less productive as the size of their group increases’.

As an independent, we’re a crack team of specialists with very broad skills.  We deliberately keep ourselves lean to engender the right kind of creativity and collaboration.

9. We’re hungrier

If you’re an agency with a nice juicy piece of retained business, it can be tempting to just roll along, not rock the boat and keep taking the money.

As an independent, often with project based clients, you can’t afford to be lazy. Every day feels a bit like pitch day, with a constant focus on delivering over and above for your client, knowing that their success could mean more consistent, long-term work for you.

10. You’re not paying for Network resources you never see.

That smiley Regional Chief Creative Officer who you might see once every 2 years? You’re paying part of his hefty salary. Sure, he has no idea about your business but check out those very expensive glasses – he must know what he’s doing right?

You’d be amazed at the costs involved with being part of a network. Costs that have to be covered somewhere, and ultimately end up buried in your estimates.

Transparency is one of the fundamental principles of independent life.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking – Thommo would say that. Well, don’t take my word for it – have a look at these Shameless Plugs from our clients and see how they feel about the benefits of working with an indie.

*We’re not adverse to Custom Website Tracking where applicable. But we’d find someone much smarter and more cost-effective than us to do it!