Has Our Day Arrived?

Smaller Shops Can Now Win the Bigger Clients

By Published on .

Marc Brownstein Marc Brownstein
With all of the negative news about the economy out there (I know, I wrote about it here last week!), I'm noticing a very positive trend for small-to-mid-size agencies: the ability to win business from leading advertisers.

While the big "AOR" assignments still primarily go to the global ad agencies, some smaller shops are winning assignments that were once thought to be untouchable because of size. Take, for instance, Strawberry Frog. It landed the True North line of healthy snack brands from Frito Lay. Could Strawberry Frog have landed this assignment years ago? It likely would have been tougher, as large marketers have only recently segmented their product lines and agencies accordingly. Just look at this quote from the large advertiser: "Strawberry Frog is the ad agency working on True North and was selected by the brand team because they thought it was a strategic fit."

Says a lot actually.

And then there's the Kraft business, recently snagged by McGarry Bowen. Used to be, it was won by agency brands such as Ogilvy, Y&R, Foote Cone, BBDO and JWT. Now big advertisers are willing to take a chance with a shop that is more of a specialist. Or more nimble. Or more edgy. Or maybe big advertisers are just increasingly wary of putting all of their eggs in one agency basket.

I believe it is all of those issues.

Whatever it is, the trend bodes well for shops like ours. As a client of ours, who is a large global advertiser with more than one agency, recently said to me, "I don't care how many people you have on my account. I just care that the work is great, executed on time and on budget."

And that is the beauty of being smaller. We are more nimble. We are more passionate. We do care more about business from large advertisers. And we can attract better talent these days because we don't have cultures that are tied to Wall Street's quarterly demands. And that is all some clients care about. And, finally, large chunks of business are coming our way. Not just projects, but whole divisions, like Frito Lay's True North Healthy Snacks and Kraft's various brands.

What is it going to take to keep the business once it lands in one of our shops? A few things:
  • Hire the best talent. This is no time to put the healthcare team on the consumer packaged goods business. Bring in the best talent out there, and make sure they are a cultural fit. You don't want them bringing any bad habits from the big shops with them.

  • Be true to your agency culture. That is why the brands landed at your shop in the first place. The temptation to be like the globals will only remind your client of why they left their last shop.

  • Take smart risks. Lead with unconventional thinking. It is always inspiring and welcome. Especially when your client is spending tens of millions of dollars with you.
Our day is here. Let's make certain we take full advantage of it.
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