Independent agencies can deliver without compromise

In 2023, the State of Independence Shall Be…

Christian James, managing director of IF argues that independent agencies can deliver what brands need without the compromises networks have to make

…a contemporary creative agency that, unlike network agencies, can deliver exactly what a brand needs; outstanding, relevant and authentic creativity, without compromise.

As a founder of a proudly independent creative agency, I’m not going to convince anyone that this is an objective view. Nevertheless, I am 100% certain that it’s true.

I grew up in some amazing network agencies but every one was fundamentally compromised when it came to balancing the client’s needs and opportunities, and those of the agency. And in particular, its senior leaders.

When the ‘London’ or ‘New York’ office are expecting a double digit net profit contribution before you’ve even started, there’s a financial compromise.

When the siloed structure of the network agency means ‘departments’ are pitted against each other in profitability tables, there’s a strategic compromise.

And with that siloed mentality, there comes a compromise between creativity, efficiency and effectiveness.

That last point is particularly relevant in 2023. Markets are increasingly ‘noisy’ and competitive and it’s more important than ever that all the brand’s comms are aligned; they all work harder, together. Clients can’t afford brand work that doesn’t perform. Nor can they afford performance marketing that isn’t also helping to reinforce/develop their brand. All the work needs to work on both levels and if you’ve got your digital expertise in one silo and your brand in another, you are going to get compromise.

What I will concede is that the network’s deep well of creative resource can sometimes save the day with a big idea. But all too often that big idea will be accompanied by poor service from talented but over-stretched junior project managers, thrust into the limelight to dilute the senior leaders unjustifiably bloated hourly rates.

For us, independence is not just a business attribute, it’s a state of mind. We are free from outside control which means we can devote ourselves to the cause with absolute clarity and unsullied focus. We don’t have a ‘client evaluation checklist’ – we take on work from brands with ambition and integrity, not because they were in last year's big spender list. And only then, if we believe we can make a meaningful difference.

To succeed in 2023, your brand is going to have to stand out for something meaningfully different. To find that, you’re going to have to go beyond the obvious and root that idea into the most relevant channels and every nook and cranny of the customer experience. That takes objectivity, creativity, tenacity and integrity. In a network agency, you may get two of those. With an indie, you can have it all.