Insights September 18, 2015

“Does size really matter?”

Katharine Marr
By Katharine Marr

Since 2009, Ad Age has been celebrating the beauty and strength of the small agencies out there with its Small Agency Awards, and last month another handful of talented but pint-sized studios were prized. These are agencies that punch above their weight, small but perfectly-formed, creating memorable campaigns and incredible value for their clients.


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Think the whole phenomenon seems like a gimmick, or a patronising pat on the back of the cute little indie hopefuls? Well think about the timing of the award’s inception, and you’ll quickly realise that it is in fact a sign of the times, not to say a sign of what’s to come.

Up until recently, brands flocked to the big players in the name of security and stability, compromising on personal touch, perhaps, but feeling safe in the knowledge that big bucks not only buy the best talent but also cancel out vulnerability.

Or at least so they thought. Then came the economic crash of 2008, bursting property bubbles all over the developed world and taking giants like the Lehman Brothers and AIG with it. So at a time when the old meme of economies of scale is sounding more empty by the minute, what’s left to hold on to?

Enter the quirky indie agency, likely set up by a disenfranchised former executive at one of the bigger firms, with fewer staff and lower overheads but bigger dreams and greater hunger. Add to that the ability to make decisions on the spot and a spark that’s long been conspicuous by its absence at bigger agencies, and clients are left with a simple yet important question: does size really matter?

Think about the creative who left the big firm and went for it. Who would you rather face in a meeting, her former or new incarnation? Let’s not beat around the bush here – there’s a reason why Innocent smoothies are sitting on the shelves talking to you in first person: we like honesty, and we like a person we can trust.

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And trust is what it all comes down to. We used to find it in flashy offices, expensive suits and executives on silly salaries. At a time when sustainability is the word on everyone’s lips and corporate structures are starting to seem a little lack-lustre, we find it in people. And, put simply, people at small agencies are more likely to remember your name, feel personally invested in their work, and make your business their business.

Does size matter? Absolutely – but not in the way it used to. We’ve worked with big and small and everything in between, and there certainly are pros and cons at both ends. But if flexibility, passion, edge and trust mean anything to you, it’s likely that less is more. If we, a proudly small translation agency, may say so ourselves, it seems perfectly clear that Ad Age are onto something.

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