Consolidation, restructuring, and closures of established offices all indicate interesting times ahead. But what does this corporate version of musical chairs mean for smaller boutique agencies, locally?

For some agencies, it’s time to grab a piece of that R45-billion advertising spend. These players are going to stake their claim in this market by offering a service that’s actually one-on-one.

“It’s a complaint I’ve heard time and time again; clients having to negotiate with the red tape and layered agencies,” says, Abigail van Zyl, managing director of The Digital Thread,

“Especially in the digital age, where clients are unaware of how to get the best results from their media spend, not to mention that larger agencies can scare off clients. After all, a giant boardroom can be daunting,” adds van Zyl.

While in the past the largest revenue in the advertising was TVC, and still is, social media and digital are gaining in popularity by leaps and bounds. This means that traditional agencies are missing out on this growing gold mine.

Tailored talent just for you

Previously, a client would approach an agency and management would select talent from their studio to work on the project.

But if you think about it, isn’t that limiting their pool of talent? Boutique agencies can select the writer and art director to work on a project who have exactly the right expertise.

“We’ve been able to chop and change our talent per project, and we’ve had huge success with meeting clients’ expectations,” says Ian Jamieson, founder and creative director at Design Bureau.

“Also, because we’re smaller, we give our clients direct access to the talent who can receive direct, unaltered feedback. We work with senior talent so the turn around on larger projects is quick, and we play a little bit of matchmaker, so we know they will get along well,” adds Jamieson.

Then there’s the fact that players in the SME segment can access specialised talent on a project basis.

“I’m able to offer my clients services that established agencies normally don’t and, after the project is completed, I don’t need to keep these specialists on,” says van Zyl,

“Whether it’s editors, sound engineers, designers or writers, I can cherry pick talent to complete a project,” van Zyl adds.

Being flexible is what we do

Being thrifty and sourcing alternative methods of delivering services is key to the success of boutique agencies.

Cutting overheads, working remotely or recruiting part-time employees is all part of the smaller agency game to lower production costs – and it’s exactly what clients are looking for.

“Clients no longer have the budgets to put R3-million or R4 million behind a few TVCs a year,” says Carla Gontier, head strategist at Iconic Media.

“They want to be able to get bang for their buck, so being able to deliver high-quality video content, while also trimming the fat of a large production, is an invaluable skill,” adds Gontier.

Being able to deliver high calibre at a lower cost also extends across all channels.

“No matter the project, clients, like anyone, want products and results under budget,” says van Zyl. “It’s not rocket science.”

“That’s why clients are looking at what we’re doing – because when you’re dealing with an agency that’s offering you a lower price for the same quality of work, it’s not surprising that so many agencies around the country are consolidating, restructuring and closing some of their offices. It’s because they want to stay competitive,” van Zyl concludes.