Keys to understanding why I prefer an independent marketing agency to a multinational top job
Some time ago I read an article in Cinco Días about the internal dismissal that many managers are experiencing since the pandemic allowed them to work remotely and detach themselves from the corporate culture they helped shape. I felt identified. And surprised. Suddenly, reading a newspaper report, I realised what had happened to me in recent years. One of the people mentioned in the article is, of course, myself. Wow!
Curiously, as I bumped up against my subconscious, I began to understand the warmth in the gaze; the tone of voice, of some of my professional colleagues. I suspect that most people don’t understand why I chose a small communications and marketing agency, rather than clinging to a top international position in a top agency. I understand them. They are not me.
With this post I am making my debut in the best independent agency in the Spanish market. To explain why I chose to be part of Incognito. And also to give some keys to choosing the best marketing and communication agency according to the objectives, size and culture of each organisation.
Small and independent? Of course!
- Freedom A lot of years ago I met a very competent communication consultant who worked in the first agency I worked for (which no longer exists). He did his work professionally. And he withstood two scoldings from my boss. Well, he endured one. The second time he blurted out: “My hunger is mine!”, picked up his belongings and left. I later learned that he had been a senior manager in a large company, that he had no large debts and that he valued freedom above all else. Freedom to tell the truth… even to your client. To say that’s not what you’re working on. The advantage of an independent agency is that you have the freedom to work at high cost, or low cost, simply because you feel like it. Freedom to shout “My hunger is mine!” (How great!) When choosing an agency, it is important to know how much freedom its professionals also have. And whether they are conditioned by arbitrary targets imposed on them in Switzerland, the UK or California.
- Purpose. One of the few positive effects of the 2019 confinement was that I got back to talking to myself. (Thanks, Mariana!) The inner voice had largely disappeared with the noise of the house, the customers, the traffic, the commercials…. The confinement served to reactivate one of my professional drivers: having a purpose. I remembered that my engine works if it truly impacts the brands I work for. By choosing a small agency like this, I regain the certainty that what I do will impact the business, the culture and its customers. And I will no longer have any doubts as to whether my progress is swept under any carpet.
- Flexibility. I had a client – today he is a friend – who told me that the main reason he was so happy to work with my agency was because I had put together a team to suit him. “It works like clockwork. As if they belonged to my company,” he once told me. It was obvious to me: one of the objectives of a communication agency is to find symbiosis with its clients. What I don’t know if my friend knows (he will now) is the contortions and genuflections I had to do to get that equipment to sound on the same frequency as his client. By selecting a small agency you know they will have the flexibility to adopt your corporate culture. That’s why many big brands prefer to work with boutique agencies, capable of providing a first-class service and a flexibility that borders on symbiosis.
- No artifice. Did you know that half of salmon is sal? (salt in Spanish) And the other one, mon! (I love this joke). So that’s it. If you take away the country royalties, the ‘corporate services’, the global-short-range-local-campaigns, the vipis, siniorvipis, cefeos, ceoós, the follow-up meetings and the mountains of forms from a marketing (or communication) agency… Well, you’re only halfway there, more or less. The half with more substance, I dare say.
- Dynamism.. Some people claim that fear is the secret of business success because they have seen it in a war documentary. Specifically, the Second World War. Ample evidence proves this and I will not be the one to refute it. Fear drives the most successful companies. And the most effective armies in times of peace and war. As I didn’t serve in the military, I won’t talk about armies. I see a business reality: fear stifles curiosity and innovation. If you are looking for a dynamic agency, make sure its people move because they appreciate you, love their work or want to help. If they are afraid, they might blow up a bridge over the River Kwai. If you want it rebuilt, be prepared to crack the whip. Or worse.
- Closeness (to reality). The older I get, the more I worry that I don’t have my finger on the pulse of reality. So I make an effort to observe everything around me that is different from me. And I try to find out what is going on. Yes, sometimes I rely on social networks and the Internet. But I rely much more on my children, clients, family, friends, neighbours…. When choosing an agency, ask where decisions are made. If the service and the decision-maker are close by, that’s a plus.
- Independence. In 25 years of profession I have noticed that one of the biggest limitations of agencies is their lack of independence. Either because they belong to macro advertising groups with conflicting interests (and clients), or because no one in them is independent enough to say (a) Enough (b) Go ahead. Generally for political or hierarchical reasons. I like to think that Incognito is an agency capable of saying that and more. Go for it!