An Independent (Marketing) Lens

If you want a peek into the unfettered minds of the independent agency elite, the collection of essays that make up the 2016 edition of Campaign Magazine’s “World’s Leading Independent Agencies” is a must-read. Each of the agencies is unique by definition, with personalities and pursuits that cover a wide spectrum. Yet, taken collectively there are meaningful commonalities that are worth further discussion.

Marketers are struggling with change

“You change or you die,” reads one headline. “Always under construction,” says another. “The future is purple,” declares a South African agency that recently underwent dramatic organizational change. The message appears to be: the world is a fast-moving place and change is necessary to stay relevant.

The headline of our essay is “Join the evolution,” so it’s fair to say we are aligned with the change motif. But despite all the talk about the need to change, I have to stop short of saying that marketing itself is drastically different than it ever has been. At the end of the day, people still require the same information about a product or service in order to make a purchase decision, and rely on brands to provide it. Unless decision-making becomes a perpetual coin toss, this will remain true.

What has changed, though, is the amount of information available, and how we can access it all. From the invention of the printing press, to PCs and mobile devices, marketers have always needed to adapt to the times. Do you remember when direct response “bingo” cards were the way to request more information about a product and service that you saw in a printed magazine ad? Could you imagine a consumer today filling one of these out and dropping it in the mail, when all the information they need is available with a few clicks of a mouse or flicks of a finger? Neither can I.

What’s on the minds of the World’s Leading Independent Agencies? The 2016 collection of essays has 14 unique perspectives, yet many common themes.

Independent agencies are better positioned to respond to change

I would go as far as to say that, with the excessive amount of readily accessible information, marketers are needed more than ever to help us sift through all the noise. We are the ones who should be able to craft the very best and most valuable content about our products and services. And if we remain agile, we can respond to the micro-changes that are taking place in our industry and society every year that ultimately result in great sea changes over time.

Here’s where another theme emerges from the essays: independent agencies’ abilities to change.

The publishers asked each agency to provide three word responses to the question, “What does independence gives us?” Agility, speed, empowerment, adaptability and flexibility were among the common responses. Seven (!) of the 14 agencies said, “Freedom.”

The reality is, independent agencies don’t have to ask anyone for permission to change. We are not beholden to a corporate deity above. We are not bogged down in hierarchy or red tape. If we see an opportunity in front of us, we take it. If we sense a threat, we evolve. Because of this, indie shops are better positioned to respond to change.

Good, fast & cheap: pick three!

You’ve probably heard the old adage, “Good, fast, cheap: pick two.” For most things in life that’s true, but in a regard, with independent agencies, marketers can have all three.

We’re good – we wouldn’t be recognized as the World’s Leading Independent Agencies if that wasn’t true. We work collaboratively with others, and don’t have heavy baggage so we’re fast. And without the expense and pressure from Wall Street investors looking for quarterly dividends, combined with the impact we can have as a result of being good and fast, we’re relatively inexpensive.

It’s not often that you can have your cake and eat it too. But when it comes to marketing, hire an independent agency and enjoy every bite.

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