• Curtis Bantjes

Big vs. Small Agencies

When I think about adverting agencies my mind goes to Jon Hamm in the TV Series Mad Men. I then remember adverts from the 80’s with big budget cigarette advertising and big names like Ogilvy and McCann come to mind.


The cigarette ads were some of the best, I remember spectacular aerial shots, then taken from helicopters of people riding jet skis and beautiful models diving into crystal blue tropical waters off multimillion-dollar luxury yachts. I did not care much for cigarettes then as I was only 10, but I wanted to be a part of this! Back then the tobacco companies had millions to spend on marketing as they had a captive audience addicted to their carcinogenic products with almost no federal interference. Due to the available budgets, the biggest and best agencies were used.


Traditional big agencies have teams of specialists and outsourced partners which are intricate cogs in a complex machine that can develop and present a concept from their trendy offices and turn it into a 30 sec ad. These big agency ads are usually done from scratch and should look amazing, be emotive and have a serious WOW factor.


These days the technology is cheaper, there are stock videos allowing faster turn-around without expensive production costs and applications that allow one to stich the content together quickly for a comprehensive ad. A small agency with an equally good concept can execute an equally effective advert for a fraction of the cost of a large agency developing from scratch. Smaller agencies from my experience have more expertise in niche channels such as social, mobile or web and can often develop an ad with better execution in their niche.


As a brand I would seriously look at what I am trying to achieve:


  1. If you have no clue how to market your product / service, get a consultant with reputable references and big agency experience to help you.

  2. If you are for instance in big pharma, money is not object and you need to spend taxable profits, then call a big agency and they will happily take your money and develop an amazing multichannel campaign to take you to another level.

  3. If you are building a brand from scratch, often there is no budget for a big agency, so the answer is to use a smaller niche agency as they may be more cost effective.

  4. Ideally you want and agency that does recent and regular work for well-known brands and experience in your market.

  5. Always negotiate on price and offer a % of sale as this is a great incentive for consultants and advertisers to work harder for you and if they do not believe in your product they will walk away.


There are different tools for different jobs. If you are under pressure to develop and cost-effective marketing campaign and need to see a return on investment you will need to go with a smaller niche agency. Smaller agencies are often harder working and will will grow with you. On the other end of the scale, If you have budget to develop a concept and can afford to go big then a large agency can really expand your market and drive awareness on a larger scale quickly.

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