Indies offer more than independence

Our founder, Ed Cox, has penned his thoughts on why independents offer clients more than just independence, in response to the launch of ‘Land of Independents’, a marketing initiative from leading independent media agencies.

Last week saw a significant moment for the UK media agency sector as leading independent agencies came together in a collaborative marketing effort with a campaign called ‘Welcome to the Land of Independents’, an initiative led by the de-facto poster child for the sector, Andrew Stephens of Goodstuff.

The campaign points out that clients have never needed strategic and impartial advice more than right now, with the Coronavirus crisis triggering a recession, as well as ushering in a new set of consumer behaviours to get to grips with, from media to shopping habits.

The indy sector is perfectly poised to help clients with challenges not seen in a generation, not least because indies tend to be staffed by more experienced folk, and with clients getting a greater percentage of those more seasoned professionals on their business. When I talk to clients and intermediaries, this is one of their first concerns (it was ever thus). ‘Is this the team I will get on my account?’ has long been number one in the list of most commonly asked pitch questions. And clients want the right balance of youth and experience – especially when they are thrown a Covid-shaped curveball.

But the success of indies is in recent years is down to much more than just this customer- centricity. Unencumbered by a business model based on billings, indies have been able to react to market changes, innovate, and evolve faster.

Where big media agency networks were built for a paid-media, buy-it-cheaper world, indies are providing strategic communications advice all along the customer journey. There’s no point getting your media for X% cheaper, if it’s the wrong media touchpoint for the job.

Big media networks will argue the game is moving to data and tech, but here too the oil tankers are struggling. As networks look to build or buy up big martech, and lock clients into their ecosystems to pay for it all, indies are forming nimble alliances with start-ups, bringing a fresh, flexible, and dynamic approach to everything from location marketing to audience planning.

I take great care never to question the individual talents across the agency landscape – talent can be found everywhere. But the prevailing system isn’t working for many clients, and more and more are realising it – with the independent media agency sector growing five times faster than the market.

So, much like the ads depicting the sunlit uplands – I know that indies are poised to thrive alongside the clients that have chosen them. It’s time for more clients to come on the journey.

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