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Too often, indie agency owners and managers focus on what they don’t have, compared to larger and better resourced holding companies.

We don’t have as much money, as many employees, offices, divisions etc etc.

For the sake of your current and future clients, don’t do this.

Your independent agency is just as capable of winning the type of clients, holding company agencies want to win.

In fact, many small/medium/large corporate clients prefer to work with nimble, passionate, and creative indie agencies like yours compared to big, lumbering agency monoliths.

Independent agencies have distinct strengths and advantages that holding companies will never have.

Focus on harnessing these advantages and you’ll be much better placed to beat the big boys.

But before we get all misty eyed about how wonderful you are, the reality is that some corporate whales do prefer to work with similarly sized agency whales (or at least, they’re told to do so by the global Head Office).

According to a survey conducted by Advertiser Perceptions in 2020, 38% of marketers said they prefer to work with large agencies, while 53% said they prefer to work with mid-sized agencies. The remaining 9% said they prefer to work with small agencies.

So the good news for indie agencies is that the majority of the marketers surveyed prefer working with smaller agencies.

But as any successful agency person knows, sitting by the phone, waiting to get calls from corporate whales eager to work with you, is not a smart business growth strategy.

You have to go out there, every day and compete to win.

When you take your offer to the market, here are a few ways that independent agencies can stand out from holding agencies:

1. Specialization

Independent agencies can focus on a specific niche or industry, offering specialized services that larger agencies may not be able to provide. By becoming experts in a particular area, independent agencies can establish themselves as go-to providers in that space.

2. Agility and flexibility

Independent agencies can be more agile and flexible than larger agencies because they have fewer bureaucratic hurdles to overcome. This allows them to move quickly, adapt to changing market conditions, and offer more personalized services to clients.

3. Creative talent

Independent agencies can attract top creative talent by offering a more personalized and entrepreneurial environment. This can result in innovative and compelling work that is as good, if not better than the output of larger agencies.

4. Local expertise

Independent agencies can leverage their local expertise to provide insights and solutions that larger agencies may not have. This is particularly true in regions where local customs, cultures, and languages play a significant role in marketing and advertising.

5. Strategic partnerships

Independent agencies can form strategic partnerships with other agencies or service providers to offer a broader range of services to clients. This can allow them to compete with larger agencies on a more equal footing.

It all makes sense, right; but does it work?

Here are just a few indies agencies for whom it has worked big time!

Founded in 1982, legendary independent agency Wieden+Kennedy has worked with some of the biggest brands in the world, including Nike, Coca-Cola, and Old Spice. Its “Just Do It” campaign for Nike is one of the most iconic and successful advertising campaigns of all time.

W+K has won numerous creative awards for its work and has consistently beaten larger holding companies in creative competitions. W+K is now a ‘global independent agency’ with 10 offices around the world.

Australian indie agency, Joy was founded in 2015 and has worked with brands like Optus, eBay, and Tourism Australia. It has won numerous awards for its work, including the Grand Prix at the Australian Effie Awards for its “Yes” campaign for Optus.

As with W+K, Joy has been able to compete with larger holding companies by focusing on creativity, innovation, and strategic thinking.

In 2017, independent agency Anomaly beat out holding companies like WPP and Publicis to be named Adweek’s Agency of the Year. And in 2022, Anomaly was recognized again by being named Adweek’s US Agency of the Year. With offices in New York, London, Toronto, Amsterdam, Shanghai, and Los Angeles, Anomaly has worked with corporate brands like Adidas, Budweiser, Mini, Unilever, Converse, and Don Julio.

If you own or manage an independent agency, there’s nothing stopping you from joining companies like your taking on and beating the holding companies at their own game.

What’s holding you back?

Independent agencies competing with holding companies

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