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The World's Leading Independent Agencies: Meet the Integrators

Today's independent agencies of a spirit of collaboration -- and a valuable alternative to the predictable results of traditional networks

In a world of big data, does creativity have less value?

Digital agencies such as SapientNitro change hands for huge sums, with brilliant creative shops such as La Comunidad thrown into a deal as loose change. At this year’s Advertising Week Europe, Sir Martin Sorrell was not at all pleased to be introduced as the head of an advertising agency group, pointing out that creative networks including Ogilvy & Mather and J Walter Thompson are less than 30 per cent of WPP’s business today.

Procurement rules marketing. The traditional networks sell creativity by the hour, which helps produce the predictable results that financial analysts demand. But does this really help clients in the way agencies used to do?

Every agency in this publication has a valuable perspective, but three themes recur most often.

First: to offer real value, agencies need to be one step ahead of their clients. Data measures what happened last week or last year; creativity determines what happens next. Often, this requires bravery, gut feel and instinct — not to be confused with irresponsibility.

Second: In the age of interactive communications and social communities, agencies need to be close to their clients’ customers. To live their experience and empathise with them. It’s hard to understand Nigerian consumers, or Australian brands, from thousands of miles away.

Third: the practical dimension. How does a relatively small independent shop have the chutzpah to believe that it can answer the needs of a large corporate client in an increasingly fragmented, multichannel world?

Independent agencies respond passionately to this challenge. "One team," "collaboration," "outsourcing," "no hierarchy" … All address the issue with conviction and hard evidence.

The reality is, ownership of the means of production is a concept that dates from the 19th century – and belongs there.

As Gravity Road’s Katie Lee puts it, the best agencies today are integrators, not integrated.

Julian Boulding is the president of thenetworkone.


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