When it comes to creative work, many people have the idea that a bigger agency is better. After all, the conventional wisdom says that with a big agency, you would have access to more resources. Big firms often have a long track record of winning some pretty impressive-sounding awards. And they have name recognition; the old saw "no one ever got fired for hiring IBM" could just as easily say BBDO or McCann when it comes to creative agencies.
Big brands often hire big agencies as their agency of record, but when it comes to making a big splash with specific projects, whether it's a complete website redesign or smaller project, big brands don't always go to the big dogs. They may look to a small agency to get the job done.
Could it be they know something the conventional wisdom doesn't? The answer is yes. Here are four reasons big brands hire small agencies.
1) Small Agencies Innovate and Adapt: When it comes to agency work, creativity and innovation is the name of the game - and neither of those is limited to agencies with a big staff and a bloated budget. In fact, small agencies often get their start when creatives decide to blaze a trail, innovating new approaches to meet changing needs. Smaller agencies may not only be more willing to try new things, it is often their bread and butter.
2) Small Agencies Have Niche Specialization: Small agencies are called boutique agencies for a reason: they may not offer a wide range of services, but they are likely to have a very strong specialization in the services they do provide.
For instance, when it comes to graphic design you can seek out a big agency that handles all kinds of graphic design, or you could look for a boutique firm that specializes in the specific type of design you need, such as infographics.
Utah-based Avalaunch Media is one example of a small digital marketing agency that has developed a specialty in a very specific niche: creating infographics for big brands like GoPro, as well as Microsoft, Ski Utah, and others.
Infographics are a very effective way for big brands to convey messages on websites and social media; they've been shown to be 30 times as likely to be read as an article. But infographics are also a niche that not all designers do well. A small digital agency that "gets it" can be a better choice than a big firm that has name recognition but doesn't have the skills to develop these kinds of graphics cost effectively.
3) No Bait and Switch: Big agencies charge big prices to do the same work that a smaller agency might be able to do just as well. Big agencies reel in new accounts with a list of prestigious names that will be working on the project, but once you're on board it's usually lower-level staff that will actually be doing the work.
Those famous creative gurus who convinced you to sign on with the agency? They'll be providing "direction" and not much else. At a smaller agency, the organization tends to be pretty flat, so the team that you meet during the sales process is usually the team that will be doing the actual work.
4) Small Agencies Care More: It's not about being touchy feely - if you want best results, work with an agency that is as invested in your results as you are. Your business represents a bigger percentage of overall revenue with a smaller agency, so it's in their best interest to make sure you're happy. At a big agency, results might be measured in terms of "did we win an award?" At a small agency, the question is more likely to be, "did it help our client's business?"
The fact is, there are some pretty good reasons why a small agency is sometimes a better choice, even for the big brands. And the even better news? There are a huge number of small agencies to choose from: 68 percent of the approximately 50,000 advertising and public-relations services establishments in the U.S. employ no more than five workers. So next time you're looking to get big results with your creative projects, think small!