Read our new manifesto

Start 2021 with fresh ideas
and practical tips on...









Banner BGBanner BG

How can independent agencies take centre stage post-Brexit?

How can independent agencies take centre stage post-Brexit?

There’s been plenty of speculation over the implications of Brexit on marketing budgets and UK business in general. But, what’s been lost amid these top line predictions and forecasts is any real consideration for the tremendous variety across the marketing services sector - both in terms of service offering and agency structure. This is particularly true for the UK’s thriving independents who are well positioned to prosper in the new commercial environment

Since the UK made its decision to leave, our research team has interviewed over 100 UK based marketing budget-holders about short and long term implications on strategy and spend. While the majority state a business-as-usual approach to the coming months, we’re already picking up clues as to what will become the new normal for UK agencies of all shapes and sizes.

Home team advantage

The shift in perceptions underway among global brands is perhaps best illustrated by Mazda, who told us there will be a greater emphasis on the importance of domestic agencies over global networks when Britain leaves the EU. This sentiment has been echoed by a number of other global brands, who we anticipate will increasingly treat the UK as an independent market.

Even if few predicted Brexit, UK agencies are seen as possessing a greater knowledge of regional and national trends and consumer preferences, and have a better understanding of what audiences react to. In the post-referendum environment this is especially important to global brands, as (half of) Britain has shown its views differ dramatically from the rest of Europe. For this reason, we’re predicting greater splitting of European-wide budgets and incumbents to allow more specialist focus on the UK.

Agility counts

Two qualities all independent agencies should be pushing right now are agility and autonomy. There’s no knee-jerk reaction being made to alter spend plans at an operational level, but brands are all telling us they’re gearing up to be able to react quickly, busily gathering insights and research in the meantime.

Privately owned and not tied to shareholder demands or complex pan-European sign-off procedures, brands are increasingly drawn to indies’ ability to act quickly and decisively. The National Trust for instance steers clear of large networks – smaller UK agencies offer a better understanding and can act on its members’ emotions effectively “in the moment”.

Independent thinking

The fact that Betfair was still offering odds on Leave of 10/1 at noon on the day of the vote, is emblematic of the lack of understanding many mainstream analysts had of half of the 64.1 million people that live in the UK. Independent thinking – particularly in relation to audiences that appear to have been overlooked or misunderstood – is what brands are crying out for right now.

A reason to connect

Independent agencies are nearly always more proactive in new business than their network counterparts, and this is what will make the category succeed in the coming years. Brands will be undergoing ad hoc and formal supplier reviews over the coming months so agencies cannot afford to be passive.

But to be proactive, you need accurate information and insight. By uncovering the challenges and agency requirements of marketing directors in companies across the UK, Pearlfinders provides agencies (including many we’re proud to see featured in The Drum’s Census this year) with credible reason to be proactive – a reason to connect.

Total media spend may drop a percentage point at certain times, wiping value from shares of major networks, but we predict significant increases in all manner of tactical, ROI-focused campaigns. Proactivity, entrepreneurialism and bold thinking will ensure the best independent agencies thrive in years to come.

The top 100 brands for independent agencies

Independent shops looking to focus their new business efforts most effectively, can check out a list of the Top 100 brands most likely to work with independent agencies. Based on first hand conversations with marketing budget-holders, this list is updated quarterly to reflect our latest primary research.

Anthony Cooper, Managing Director, Pearlfinders.

Tel: +44(0)20 7833 5260~



Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis