The Grass is Greener on the Smaller Side

Created On: January 17, 2018

“These are tough times for creative agencies unless they are digital.”

–Greg Paull, R3

We don’t hide the fact that the people who make up Decode Digital are magical unicorns. Unicorns in space, actually. Our mission as an agency is to combine the technology that takes away boundaries with a creative spirit that turns myth into reality. It’s a post-space-age world, and there’s no room for digital to mean boring.

The marketing world has, for too long, thought of “digital agencies” as completely separate from “creative agencies.” Technology changes too fast for modern agencies to pretend they can fragment themselves and still stay competitive.

And recent events in the business world have proven this. According to a report from international consultancy R3, boutique and digital agencies are gaining on legacy agencies. Several large companies, such as American Express, have moved their business away from agencies so big and old their names were in Mad Men to see how much greener the grass is on the smaller side.

The Motion of the Ocean

It’s our size and adaptability that makes smaller agencies so competitive, according to Decode Digital principal Gavin Marks.

“As a boutique agency, we’re able to pivot quicker—so when there’s changes in the marketplace, whether it be technology, data driven, new products or new opportunities, a boutique agency can implement that on the fly,” said Gavin. “We can test, iterate, and roll out what is almost a polished product in days or weeks. That would take bigger agencies much longer, and they might never get there.”

Digital agencies are able to be flexible with the technology they use, with their vendors, and with their creative strategies. “If something isn’t going right, it’s a lot easier for five or six of us to get into a room and make changes—course correct it, change it, almost in real time,” Gavin remarked. “So oftentimes, if we don’t have the best initial media plan or product, we’re able to catch it and optimize it in weeks or days, while bigger agencies are having to do that kind of thing post-mortem.”

Unicorns, or Just… Horses?

Boutique agencies also provide greater transparency, especially where processes are concerned. As Gavin puts it, who’s actually doing the work?

“With larger agencies, you typically have larger budgets, which then qualifies them for a lot of managed services. They’ll turn around and work with these media partners and just give them the keys to the car. They’ll say, ‘here’s our budget, give me a plan’ and pray they’ll actually optimize the plan.”

“There’s going to be some good managed services and some bad managed services, so that’s not a blanket statement,” said Gavin. “But at a boutique agency, there’s better chance they’re managing things in-house—so they have more control, more ownership to do due diligence, and deliver a better product. At Decode, that’s certainly the case.”

Drinking the Kool-Aid

Because digital agencies are smaller, we’re able to invest more time into each individual. We can develop our company culture, which leads to employees who want to find the next innovation, to be ahead of the curve. That motivation leads directly to a difference in service.

“Boutique agencies are going to treat their clients better, potentially, because they don’t have the luxury of taking things for granted or of having financial backing from a huge public company,” said Gavin. “So I’d argue we have to work a little harder, we have to care a little more, and we have to treat people a little better.”

That culture of customer service ties directly into the deliverables we create for our clients. When an agency has more time to devote to their clients, the results change. As a brand, you get messaging that’s more relevant to your target audience based on your unique needs.

“Theoretically, the raw assets from a small agency and a large agency may be the same,” Gavin acknowledged. “But I think the boutique agency is going to pay more time and attention to what makes the client unique. You’re going to feel that. It’s going to feel like the client’s voice instead of our voice as an agency.”

Establishing unicorns in space as your company mascot may set the bar high, but it’s exactly what sets Decode apart. Our tenacity, curiosity, and willingness to not settle have created an environment of creative problem solving that delivers cutting-edge opportunities for our clients. Like scientists on the International Space Station, we experiment. Like unicorns in mythology, we make magic.

Our principal agrees: “If you have the right people at a big agency or a small agency, a group of people who are committed to honest, candid relationships and are committed to the company’s overall success, that’s the differentiator. We’ve been able to build that foundation here.”

Whether we’re building on that foundation by working late at the office or by preparing for our championship game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, you can depend on one thing: no matter who we’re up against in the bracket, this digital agency is taking home the gold. 

More deets:

AdWeek – Boutique and Digital Agencies Are Gaining on Legacy Shops in the Latest Ad Industry New Business Report