So to take Adam Kleinberg’s points, with an added layer of PR perspective, I see the opportunities as thus:
Reason 1: Freedom.
Freedom is priceless. My agency is 25 years old this year and still independent despite many tempting offers. In a recent internal study within Firefly, the freedom to experiment (maybe fail), the freedom to train, to coach, to dream, to climb, to speak out, to question and to change is what really motivates our people. Our team thrive due to the freedom to deliver amazing and inspiring campaigns to our clients and they are not constrained by overbearing demands to deliver a big fat margins to meet HQ management levies.
Reason 2: The Fallout
If there are any current Publicis/Omnicom clients questioning the motivations behind this merger, they may choose to review. None of these network agencies are cheap, so if value for money is in question, you can be sure there is a better deal to be had in a very competitive market. If the merger causes a dulling and diminishing enthusiasm within the business as everyone jostles for position and power, then many clients will review and take their business elsewhere.
There will be fall-out. Independents are ready to serve.
Reason 3: The Message
The message for the merger is GLOBAL and BIG.
GLOBAL is right for some brands who have a global footprint to serve, but in my experience a collection of ‘best of breed’ agencies can work more effectively, with more passion, drive and creativity than a bunch of companies who all happen to have the same name on the door, or the same owner, however close or distant. This is secretly acknowledged by many global players, especially by those individuals who have experienced being part of a global operation and left.
BIG is not necessarily beautiful. Smaller agencies are nippy and thrifty, agile and flexible. We don’t hide behind legal speak; we don’t operate by committee. We don’t have people in ivory towers; we don’t have layers of expensive management to support. Everyone is close to the ground; we are lean.
Independent agencies often care more than big global players, not just because of size, but because they have more of a personal stake in the business. In particular, the owners care because they have ‘skin in the game’.
So my conclusion is that ‘Independents will try harder’. I find ‘try’ too passive but the sentiment is correct. And ironically, this conclusion is inspired by the most famous strapline in history for Avis, a phrase born from DDB, owned by Omnicom now, but an Independent then in 1962.
Perhaps Independents’ Day has arrived.
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