Small Agency Awards

Why big brands choose small agencies

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To hook a big fish, you probably need a large boat with a huge crew, right? So it stands to reason that larger shops have an advantage when catering to the demands of any client, much less a blue-chip brand.

But when Ad Age sat down with some indie agencies and clients during the Small Agency Conference and Awards, they shared why being small might give a shop an edge when it comes to landing monster accounts.

Here's what they said:

Smaller agencies generate passion, thereby creating competition
"I think a lot of times when dealing with the big agencies, there are things that get in the way of just doing the best work. I think with a small agency the focus is on the work. There's a level of passion and, at times, a level of competitiveness, especially when you're in a situation where you're competing against or working with large agencies that small agencies bring to the table that clients really love."
—Ahmad Islam, CEO and managing partner, Ten35

Smaller agencies are more transparent and less sales-y
"We're not thinking about having to make our numbers. I think we're seen as less sales-y. I think we're a bit more transparent because we can be."
—Sharon Napier, CEO, Partners & Napier

Smaller agencies are lean and this makes them nimble
"You can be a better match to the best clients in the world right now, because the best clients are fast. They're lean, they're doers, right? They're operating very fast. I think sometimes the big networks are not matching them. They're trying to catch up, actually. They're slow and they take too long. I think a small shop, you're as lean as your client, you're fast, you adapt, you're always there, you're on top of things."
—Anselmo Ramos, founder and chief creative officer, Gut

Smaller agencies are sometimes procedurally similar to bigger agencies
"It's the exact same process as when it's a big place. If you work at an ad agency with 300 people, 300 people don't go meet the client and pitch it ... it's a group of six people. So it's kind of the same thing."
—Eric Kallman, co-founder and creative director, Erich & Kallman

Smaller agencies are more likely to move at the speed of the marketplace
"I think we really like the ability for our smaller agencies to move quickly and move at the speed of the realities of the marketplace. And we really are attracted to that because we want to move at that same speed."
—Andrea Brimmer, chief marketing and public relations officer, Ally Financial

Smaller agencies have niche expertise
"I think you can find agencies with an expertise that you might not, might be difficult to find at a large agency."
—Erica Fite, co-founder and creative director, Fancy

Smaller agencies can play to their strengths
"One advantage a small agency can have over a large agency, or even a large network of agencies, is that when you know your strength, you can really play to that strength and you can really invest heavily in that one thing and do great work because of it."
—Jeremiah Smith, senior manager of associate brand, Walmart

Smaller agencies are less bureaucratic, which enables out-of-the-box thinking
"I think a small agency is going to challenge them to think differently about who they are or think about things from a consumer's point of view. I think we've had some success in going to clients and saying, but how does a consumer see this? We understand why you like to run things this way or you like to talk about things this way, but consumers don't think of it that way. And it's always a big aha for them."
—Jean Grabow, managing partner, Dailey & Associates

Smaller agencies mean less bullshit
"You can be attractive to a bigger client simply by offering them big agency talent without the big agency bullshit."
—Katie Keating, co-founder and creative director, Fancy

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