Why specialization and craftsmanship is the past and future of creative.
An inspiring blog article popped up in my feed yesterday from fellow Kansas City agency VI Marketing and Branding’s Tim Berney entitled “Why a Large Marketing Agency Is Your Most Cost Efficient Option.” It was a different kind of inspiring; —it inspired me to write this rebuttal. Sorry, Tim.
Tim opens with “In the early 1990s there was a national trend toward hiring boutique advertising agencies. It didn’t last too long because national brands soon found out that they couldn’t get by on the slim resources that these specialty shops provided.”
Sadly there’s no citation given to back this up. My guess is Tim forgot about internationally recognized small studios like Muhtayzik Hoffer whose clients include Netflix and HP or Heat who have the Madden NFL for EA Sports account or the thousands of other small creative studios with similarly impressive clients like Swift, Roundhouse, and perhaps the industry’s most notable envelope pushers, Sagmeister & Walsh.
In fact in 2011, (these numbers are hard to get at so forgive the 4-year-old stats) large corporations threw more than twice as many dollars at the boutiques than the big boys.
First things first: let’s talk money.
Small studios have minimal overhead. With that comes a slew of benefits. First and foremost it introduces a level of flexibility to pricing that the big boys have a hard time matching. BIKLOPS isn’t the cheapest studio around but we have the option to chase the smaller clients that inspire us and initiate passion projects to keep our talents sharp without fear of missing a mortgage payment on a giant brick and mortar headquarters.
With that out of the way let’s talk quality.
When big agencies cut a client a break price-wise it’s almost always accomplished by throwing the studio interns at the project. Less money=less talent. But small studios like ours don’t have the option of selling a project short. Every project is conceived and executed by the studio’s principals. They have to be. Which means every project tackled by a small studio has their best talent on the job.
We little guys are fast, flexible and leave room for inspiration.
Small teams are fast and agile. In a landscape where the big TV spot is increasingly a rarity, a small team that can react to engagement opportunities instantly is a huge asset. Trying to get a single tweet approved at my former big agency job would take days—at BIKLOPS a piece of compelling creative can be created and pushed onto the world stage in a single day, hell, a single hour.
Capabilities are over.
“We can do it all, but I don’t believe in this day and age you need it all. More is not always better,” says founder of boutique media agency R.Rock Enterprises, Roger Gastman.
If your studio can shoot video that’s great. If your studio can manage Facebook ads that’s great too. But the problem with capabilities is that they’re easily (and already) commodified. There are cheap apps to manage ads and cheap services that can create video content. Quite frankly for a few hundred bucks you can have a page-long list of supposed “capabilities” in the form of cheap subcontractors, analytics apps and social media monitoring software. A laundry list of services is no longer a differentiator.
There is, however, one thing we can offer clients that’s invaluable: insight. The ability to see a problem and solve that problem in a novel, memorable way is still a rare and beautiful thing. A unique perspective leads to a unique aesthetic, and a unique aesthetic leads to a long list of happy clientele. Small studios are perfectly equipped for this new, point-of-view-lead creative economy: with low overhead and smaller, less hierarchical teams, indie agencies such as ours can afford to stick to our guns. The end-result is a studio with real personality and brand insight to share, not a roster of cogs in a machine spitting out their tiny piece of a beige-colored puzzle.
The truth is if you’re choosing your creative partner based on anything other than the quality of their work you’re crazy.
Look at the studio’s work. Does it move you? Is it memorable? Does it rise above the white noise of same-same advertising and communications or does it stick out as something special? Choose your creative studio partner based on the one thing they should bring to the table every time: creativity.