The Value of Independent Thinking

The focus on growth in today’s business environment has caused many companies to lose sight of how success should be measured. It is not size; it is value. The importance of any product or service is based on value, not on the size of the company that offers it or just the costs to make it. The company’s success will ultimately be rewarded through delivering the value perceived by the purchaser.This same point of view should be used in the advertising agency business. Often, agencies look to grow, to feed the hunger of wanting more, not necessarily wanting better. Quantity does not translate into quality.We all watch as agencies look to add locations and capacity, as opposed to capabilities and skills. Of course there are smart people out there who see the opportunities for success through the addition of talent and thinking. Unfortunately, they are not the norm.Do you really want to be the most efficient, or is it more important to be effective?Today’s environment has caused marketers, and therefore agencies, to set efficiency goals in everything they do. It has become more important to work cheaper and faster in order to meet the criteria of the contract agreements that have been used between the marketer and their agencies. Effectiveness is the measure of value. The goal should be to create more success for every investment made. Yes, an investment, not an expense. What we really want are brilliantly effective communications, because it means you are achieving goals that affect profit, not just allocating costs against the budget.Advertising agencies have viewed this trend to be the reason to expand. More operations within the company, means more control of the money, and maybe more opportunity for profits. "Big and broad, spreading out the business in every direction" is what we see happening throughout the industry. This is not always building greatness, just building “more.”To meet the perceived needs of large marketers, agencies have tied together vast resources across many regions in the name of capturing the budgets of companies that must reach an ever broader target market. These agencies sell their ability to seamlessly handle just about any campaign, in any country, through their multitude of offices around the world. In theory, this has a lot of merit. In practice, it is not always efficient, or effective.In order to create a communications empire, there needs to be a hierarchy of management, policies, operational mandates, and layers. All these offices and people need to work within a command and control structure that attempts to support the need for efficiency. All these offices need to justify their existence by delivering profits to the parent. Not all the offices are as good as others, yet they are promoted under the letterhead of the corporation and the high standards. Does this agency model really produce the best work all the time?This concept of the global conglomerate does have benefits to some marketers, just not all of them. Every marketer has different needs, and these sprawling models may not always be the best solution.The best ideas come from innovative people, not organizations. The corporate machine does not produce work, it relies on its system, then it aligns people to that organizational system. There are many talented people within these big machines. Often, they are driven up the ladder and away from the majority of clients and the work, which is the nature of the corporate world. The company benefits but not necessarily every client.One of the best ways to create consistently excellent (effective) work is to gather talented people close to the situation, then allow them the freedom to imagine solutions. To leverage entrepreneurial talent without the hierarchy and keeping the best thinkers in the middle of the action. There are many smaller communications agencies that thrive in this business because they understand how important it is to keep the entrepreneurial spirit alive. They are flexible and nimble. They keep the most talented people close to both the marketer and the target audiences. Mostly, they focus and are not distracted from the mission. They specialize in what is most important to accomplish truly effective communications, knowing it is not about breadth or capacity, but about knowledge and insight, being the entrepreneur that finds a great solution, about accuracy over brute strength, about effectiveness over efficiency.No one company or organization can really contain all of the options and resources that best solve every situation. Do not believe anyone that attempts to tell you they have everything you need.The solution to today’s complex communication challenges are built around alliances and sourcing the best talent, skills, and knowledge in the place you need it. These “best” resources do not live under any single roof.Marketers have an alternative to global agencies. The Independent Agency Network — an alliance of entrepreneurial agencies that have joined together to openly share resources, ideas, opportunities, and insights.There are a number of very successful networks in the world, each one operating with different criteria according to the members’ objectives. One common trait is that the individual agency is independent of the global advertising corporation, free to focus on what makes them great and work for the marketer that sees them as the logical partner for them.What makes this a good alternative are the options for marketers. They can access specific skills, in specific locations, without the overhead of the global agency corporation. They use only what fits their needs. If they need telecom experts in France and Brazil, then that is what they use, unlike the global agency, which may have an office in Brazil, but may not have any knowledge of your industry or customer.Independent agency networks offer local expertise where and when you need it. None can claim every type of knowledge or skill in every market, but neither can the big agencies.No one network of independent agencies (or global agency) has an office in every country with every expertise that some marketers may require. This has been addressed through a unique alliance of the best of the independent agency networks. Our network, TAAN, has formed a bond with ICOM, MAGNET, IN, AMIN, and Worldwide Partners. The combined resources of all the members is a powerful group of more than 400 agencies in almost every part of the world covering almost every segment of the communications industry — without the overhead associated with a global enterprise, with expertise where you want it, and only when you want it. This alliance is a very efficient way of delivering the effective solutions that many of today’s marketers need for their business.When you combine the entrepreneurial efforts all these agencies, along with the individual alliances that each of these agencies have developed, you now get deep involvement from talented, independent thinkers.It may not be perfect for every marketer, but it is an alternative that should be considered. It is where the future of our industry is going — growing business through st