With the political and economic uncertainty surrounding Brexit set to continue for quite some time, agency leaders are no doubt beginning to worry that the seemingly-chaotic situation will cause marketing spends to stall in the foreseeable future. Indeed, the recent IPA Bellwether Report confirmed this when it alluded to the end of a six-year growth spell in marketing spend.
However, all isn’t lost. For certain agencies, 2019 could be their best year yet.
As a new business consultancy that predominantly works with independent, founder-led agencies, we have been sitting on some surprising data, waiting for this very moment to extinguish the flames of dread.
The value of briefs received by our 60+ agency clients, with less than 100 staff members, doubled in 2018 when compared with 2017. And the future continues to look promising.
So why are these agencies getting an excessive share of the pie? Why are these independent, specialist agencies seeing an influx of opportunity?
Jack be nimble
The more uncertain the economy and the marketplace, the greater the demand for more nimble, dedicated and fast-moving service providers. Business decisions and commitments to spend budget are purposefully being held off until the last minute and those agencies best placed to deliver high quality output on a short timeframe often have smaller teams with simpler hierarchies.
There’s no doubt that we’ve left the 'age of retainers' behind, but the 'project age' is on course to proliferate.
It’s no secret that global clients, the mainstay of networked agencies, have always harboured a roster of small, specialist agencies for ad hoc projects. And the next year suggests that more projects are likely to fall in the laps of these underdogs.
One reason for this is that the people making the client-side decisions are changing. Once upon a time, senior marketers at major brands were likely to have spent their whole careers working within the corporate sector, but not anymore. McKinsey’s Business Value of Design report published last year recognised that organisations are confident to work with smaller, creative partners; a change that has come about because of the maturing calibre, understanding and experience of in-house marketing heads.
Do the hustle
Our message to independent agencies is clear – yes, the future of the UK country may seem uncertain; yes, existing client relationships could be disrupted; but elsewhere, everything is up for grabs!
Major clients know about the benefits of working with smaller, independent agencies more now than ever. Yet this group of agencies are harder to find or unpick in the online space.
For any clients reading this that fall into this category, you will be doing clients a favour by pro-actively raising your head above the parapet, landing yourself in their inbox and emphasising your projects that have delivered tangible benefits for your clients.
This year will be the year of the hustle. Far from scary, if you have your account management and new business mix right, 2019 could be exciting for your agency. The winners will capitalise on the rough terrain of the business battlefield rather than be complacent with the relationships they have built and managed over the past few years.
Alex Sibille is co-founder and managing director of The Future Factory