May 28, 2019

Why Big Brands Turn to Small Agencies

By Jay Bemis | Advertising Systems Inc.

Many of us pay little attention to cybersecurity — until our own computers are hacked.

When a smaller ad agency presented to McAfee, the cybersecurity giant that protects millions of computers globally, an idea for a podcast that would compel McAfee consumers to get more interested in hacking issues, the results would prove phenomenal.

The podcast — “Hackable?” — would in its first few months generate 920,000 downloads across its first 10 episodes, 72,000-plus subscribers and a five-star rating on Apple Podcasts.

Results such as these are indicators of why big brands are turning to small ad agencies to deliver quality work. The small ad agency in the case study we’ve presented here, Response, gained silver honors for its continued work on the McAfee podcast — now in its third successful season — during the most recent AdAge Small Agency Awards.

AdAge’s very description of its annual awards captures the essence of why big brands are turning more and more to small agencies for their marketing campaigns:

“One of the biggest advantages of being a small agency is having more hands-on time with clients, less red tape and the ability to be nimble,” AdAge says. “Each year, the Ad Age Small Agency Awards uncover and honor small, independent agencies that are producing innovative and exciting work.”

More hands-on time with clients, less red tape and being nimble are but three reasons that big brands have come to like small agencies, though.

During the awards, AdAge also sat down with principals from independent agencies, as well as clients, to learn a few more reasons “why being small might give a shop an edge when it comes to landing monster accounts”:

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 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 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 nonsense

“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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