According to the US Census Bureau, in 2014, there were over 13,000 advertising agencies in the US. Further, the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that there were close to 200,000 people employed in agencies in 2015.
Throughout the country, and around the world, independent agencies dot the landscape. From one-person shops to large-scale operations, this network of talent continues to make an impact, not just on local or regional clients, but global brands as well.
Instrument, an independent shop in Portland, Oregon, for example, counts Nike, Google, Dropbox and Levi's as part of their work roster. Mekanism, with four offices around the country, works with MillerCoors, HBO, Pepsi, Amazon and Starbucks.
"We are certainly seeing a trend of major brands turning more and more to independent agencies, not just for project work, but for AOR roles as well," said John Harris, CEO of Worldwide Partners, one of the largest global independent agency networks. "Holding company agencies are not the sole purveyors of great talent, diversified and specialized capabilities, or even global collaboration. Independent agencies continue to build credibility and confidence with their clients, and the entrepreneurial spirit that permeates their cultures is extremely attractive to brands."
To capture the spirit and work of independent agencies, The Drum is officially launching its Independent Influence series, focusing on what inspires independent agencies, their work and perspective in the industry. The weekly content will be a mix of written and video content and op-ed.
“Being an independent company ourselves, we see real value in ‘getting back to our roots’ and celebrating the work of independent agencies and their people,” said Gordon Young, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Drum. “We started out with an independent, challenger spirit and that’s never changed. This is a great chance for us to be aligned with this kind of thinking.”
Initially begun as occasional content, the series was created by Doug Zanger, Americas editor of The Drum. Zanger, who is based in Portland, Oregon, a region with its own independent ethos.
“Everyone in the business here seems to either be a musician, DJ, artisan or has some kind of interesting side hustle,” said Zanger. “What I learned pretty quickly early on in my career, though, is that around the world, there is some incredible work coming out of indie shops. The biggies, like Wieden+Kennedy, RPA, The Richards Group, Cramer-Krasselt, BSS&P and David&Goliath, for example, have been well-documented. But there are layers upon layers of indie agencies that work with all sizes of brands, especially global, that are making a profound impact. The people at these agencies are really fascinating and find inspiration in unique places.”
Indeed, the first Independent Influence feature was focused on Red, Tettemer, O’Connell and Partners (RTO+P) and their appreciation of typography and signage in Philadelphia. The agency hosted The Drum in the city and produced a film and walking map of the signs featured.
“The RTO+P thing is what got us thinking about it in the first place,” said Zanger. “It was such a different take and surprising. At first, it didn’t make much sense but I like working in the margins and fringe a little and, after working with them, it was clear that there was something interesting and relatable to indie agencies.”
Previous content has included GYK Antler and Chandelier. Upcoming agencies featured include North (Portland, Oregon), Arcana Academy (Culver City, California), Grow (Norfolk, Virginia), Barker (New York City), Idea Farmer (Los Angeles, California), R2C Group (Portland, Oregon), Venables Bell & Partners (San Francisco), Omelet (Culver City, California), Fizz (Atlanta), Preacher (Austin), Duncan Channon (San Francisco) and others.
Choozle, a Denver-based digital marketing and advertising platform that specializes in working with independent agencies, is the launch partner of the series.
"As an independent digital advertising platform, we are thrilled to be a part of The Drum's Independent Influence series," said Andrew Fischer, Choozle CEO. "Showcasing the work and stories of independent agencies will inspire the advertising industry and push forth the independent mentality that sets them apart."