August 5th, 2019
To start, we have a huge amount of respect for big network agencies. It’s where we came from, and without them, smaller agencies like Hatched may not exist. We founded Hatched on the idea of ‘big agency thinking, without the big agency price tags’, which still rings true today. And yes, there are plenty of agencies that have been born out of the same guise. But what we’re seeing now, during a somewhat turbulent time in the creative industry, along with a wave of big ‘arranged Adland marriages’, is perhaps a cloud of uncertainty for brands in how creative services are offered to them and may leave them with a sense of limbo in terms of working relationships. Brands are starting to rethink the way they engage with their creative partners and take a different approach to their strategy and creative purchases.
Our industry has been led by a school of big fish agencies and networks that, at times, have consolidated the marketplace with traditional approaches to branding and advertising that may have placed brands onto a false sense of security within their own marketplaces. We’ve seen brands’ direction dictated by agency process, opportunities missed due to stifling budget planning and enthusiasm and life by being strangled by miles of red tape, coiled around an often bloated and unnecessary project team.
So, the brand switches agency to someone as big but their process is better, but then what? You may still need a bag full of zeros to follow a multitude of large numbers in your budget, go through a lengthy and tiresome tender process, deal with a barrage of legal and procurement process, all for another agency to need time to adapt and ‘get with’ the brand, which is understandable, but it all takes time, it all takes a lot of time and a lot of money. Frustrating.
So what do the big agencies have that the smaller agencies don’t? What’s the pull? Is it experience? Talent? Power? The reputation of the company? All of these things can be important, but probably none more so that trust. But whilst these bigger agencies may have this appeal, and rightly so, this doesn’t mean that they don’t drop a ball, miss a deadline or lose trust. It’s also not to say that these things can’t exist in smaller agencies.
We’re finding now that a lot of brands require more collaboration to produce cost effective, clever and beautiful creative and marketing, without all the agro. Cake and eat it? Sure, but it is possible. We feel that it’s time for the smaller practices to really prove their worth and start to win and secure the bigger, traditionally unattainable, projects. We’ve found that clients, from brands both big and small, are coming around to the idea of smaller creative partners, and here’s a few reasons why we think this is a good idea.
It’s a partnership and not a ‘know your place’ mentality
Chemistry is the most important part of a relationship. Trust is then built through that chemistry. People have to get on, help each other and believe in the direction. People buy people. We’ve all heard it, but it’s true. In a partnership, smaller agencies show more value through creative hunger, honesty and efficiency. Smaller agencies are also more likely to travel with the client on their journey and educate rather than dictate. This brings a level of flexibility and openness to the client’s internal process, avoiding the legacy-led processes that are confined to a ‘one-size-fits-all’ mentality, which lead to frustration, confusion and animosity.
Smaller agencies invest themselves and become almost part of the brand, whilst still being able to maintain an ‘outside of the box’ view of the brand. It’s a partnership that we find is always valued throughout any project we’ve worked on.
Ability to be nimble and adapt
Small agencies are more likely to be able to react and merge processes due to size. Of course, an internal process is required and an agency needs a procedure in which they operate, but smaller agencies are usually still on a learning curve, and are therefore open to new ways of doing things with an open mind to delivery and deadlines.
A deeper, holistic understanding of brand purpose
We believe that at the heart of any brand is a clear reason to exist. It’s the agency’s role to understand and interrogate that purpose and immerse themselves within that brand world.
With a deep understanding of purpose, an agency will be close to the brand and its core business objectives and offerings / products, making them invaluable within creative development. This impacts on time spent on briefs and rounds of feedback on the work. Smaller agencies are more likely to listen intently, have freedom due to their flexibility in size, to get involved more and form a relationship with the brand that a larger agency might not have the time or openness to develop.
Innovate it ’til you make it
Smaller agencies are more likely to innovate and push the boundaries and get out of their comfort zone. Their approach is driven by great creative and deliverables, rather than being held back by restrictive business processes and jam-packed work-flows. They want to create ground-breaking work, they want to stand out, they want to grow, they want to impress, they are in it for the long-term.
Whilst we believe that smaller agencies could be the way forward for a lot of brands, it comes down to what the business needs. And by no means are we saying that big agencies have no place in the world anymore, of course they do. We live in a big world with lots of big ideas, needs and dreams. Titans can move mountains, smash boundaries and dig out deep holes. But what if we wanted to simply go around the mountain? Redefine the boundaries? Or tunnel down through the hole and come out the other side in another place entirely? Sometimes you might just need someone to help you look at the landscape differently.