Great story in this week’s ADWEEK about a new study on how mega-agencies should reach out to specialty voices, smaller agencies and new voices to “leverage their special talents and expertise.” Additionally: “Key findings assert that client CEO’s will demand more targeted and personal marketing as the media landscape becomes more targeted.”
The study also recommends that clients build the capabilities to manage dynamic groups of agency partners, and “small independent agencies have a better grasp of the consumer mind-set.”
I can’t tell you how often it is we speak to a mega-brand about possible work and they love us… we go through multiple meetings and then while they love us, they end up choosing a Top 5 agency simply because it’s the easy choice. Inevitably, the big agency fails at the work and we get the frustrated call 6 months later… and are invited again through the same process…. The bottom line is marketing directors and client side people don’t get fired for choosing Hill & Knowlton or MSL or the big agencies…. It’s the easy safe decision. It’s much harder to choose an aggressive, focused independent.
I recall specifically one of the largest companies in the world issued an RFP for an agency to reach the young, multicultural demographic… They started with 15 agencies and ended up with us and a Top 3 as their final 2 agencies.
The final meeting was a capabilities check… We sent a young, multicultural team – Our opposition who we saw on the way in sent 2 very senior staff – A 60+ white male, and a 50+ female senior executive… both in pinstripe conservative suits… to speak on the young multicultural market. We didn’t win… and when I asked why they said those 2 understand the market better… My response… “Yes, and I can walk on the sun.” That company had zero intention of hiring us – They wanted to be able to say they had met with a variety of agencies…. But wouldn’t have hired anyone except the easy choice.
I remember one of the first major clients I won at 5W was because a larger agency made promise after promise after promise… and 6 months after I lost an initial pitch the client CEO called me to say he’d give us a shot… and 3 years later we are still working with the company.. but it takes leadership on the client side to use smaller agencies. Any large brands who have given us a foot in the door are brands who stand and swear by us, and we deliver 10 fold over their large agency partners.
In an ideal world, larger agencies would hire independents to do work which they can’t handle… but it doesn’t and won’t happen….. they claim to be the best at everything… but aren’t… and maybe it’s 1 reason in the advertising, marketing and PR Firm world independents are growing so quickly.
I, for one don’t mind… The big agencies take the work…. They overpromise and can’t do the work… the client gets burned and eventually comes back and hires us. It’s among the reasons why we have never made a new business call and 3 years in a row are the fastest growing PR agency in the country.
Today’s ADWEEK article is great… but don’t expect any changes any time soon from the large agencies – Its not in the blood to turn away business… even though it’s bad business to accept work you can’t do great work at.