Will the smallest be strongest in adland’s jungle?

Here’s a question to ponder. It might sound bizarre but stick with us…

Would you rather be an elephant or a meerkat?

A conversation with a thriving boutique agency in Dubai today made us wonder whether the laws of the jungle could apply to the Middle East’s ad industry in times of recession.

When everyone is competing to survive on dwindling resources in a relatively small environment, is it better to be big and powerful or small and nimble?

A notable number of independent agencies we’ve spoken to have reported significant business wins in recent weeks. They say – not entirely objectively, it has to be said – that clients are eager to develop closer working relationships with smaller agencies that have more time to devote to them.

Somewhat paradoxically given the economic climate, they argue that clients are willing to spend a little more to work with an independent, thereby shunning the economies of scale offered by larger and better-known counterparts.

Can small be beautiful or is bigger always better? And which will struggle most in the jungle we find ourselves in? No matter which species you represent, let us know your thoughts.

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6 Responses to Will the smallest be strongest in adland’s jungle?

  1. Trinny says:

    Z and I have picked up on a fair number of companies spouting the “small is beautiful” adage over the last few weeks. (Oddly enough, not all of them small fry.)

    I’m not convinced that most, or indeed any, of them are thinking strategically from a “small is beautiful” perspective. I suspect they’re just making sure we know they’re ahead of the pack (well, actually, part of the pack, but they’d like to think they’re ahead of it), regarding current management trends.

    How many of them will be claiming “bigger is better” a few years down the line?

  2. Trinny says:

    Ps – Personally, though, I’d rather be a meerkat.

  3. nickcampaignme says:

    Good point Trinny. If a small agency is really so successful, it should grow by nature (unless it actually wants to turn down new business?) and eventually become one of the bigger agencies it initially tried to outwit!

    You also suggest an interesting sub-plot of bigger agencies claiming to be small. Are clients really swayed by smallness?

  4. Ricky says:

    Surely it’s more about mindset. Regardless of size, adopting a challenger frame of mind will ensure success/survival (delete as applicable). An agency should constantly question itself and its clients, constantly adapt and should always be ready to re-frame arguments and approaches. Size does matter – but your approach matters more.

  5. Tom Roychoudhury says:

    Small usually meant agile. Small meant less linear, less structured, less top heavy. Small was always an agency metaphor for nimble, more adept, more adaptive, intuitive, always there. I’ve been at both. Worked both sides of that line, and I personally now would prefer being the meerkat. Just easier to squeeze past, poke through, get in through the out door,if you get my drift.

  6. Tuna Napolitana says:

    Remember – the longest surviving species on this earth is the cockroach. I’m pretty sure I’ve met some agency people that would apply to.

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