Are independent firms endangered or thriving? That was the topic of a heated debate at a recently-held meet in Delhi where I happened to be one of the speakers.
In my opinion, there are advantages in both independent firms and large agencies. While independent firms have greater control over their operations and are more nimble and creative, larger groups with their deep pockets offer financial stability and better infrastructure. But in no way are independent agencies endangered. There are enough global firms that are independent and thriving. I will once again give my favorite example of Edelman which has set new standards in the independent PR business and has done an excellent job in promoting its own brand.
Large organizations are no doubt full staffed, but are also overworked. Independent agencies, on the other hand, can take up projects on a short notice and give value for money to their clients. They also give the much-wanted-and-almost-extinct “personal touch” to their clients, something bigger agencies may find difficult to offer owing to the vast number of projects they handle. In fact, since there is little or no bureaucracy in independent PR firms, senior employees oversee big accounts personally. This combination of personal touch and expertise helps them land big accounts. Again, senior-level executives who leave large firms to start or join independent agencies bring big portfolios.
Of course, being an independent agency isn't without challenges. If a client wants a big name, an independent smaller agency may not fit the bill. A big client means big business to an independent firm, so it hurts more when an opportunity to land one is lost. But again, independent firms are niche, whereas larger ones are general. Small firms offer customised solutions, while the larger entities offer one-size-fits-all solutions. So, survival is not an issue with independent agencies. It is no doubt thriving, but the key to success lies in innovation. All they need to do is think out-of-the-box and lead a wave of change and their future will be taken care of.