Perspective - A good time to be an indie agency

By Nick Murdoch | 14 December 2023
Nick Murdoch.

The AdNews end of year Perspectives, looking back at 2023 and forward to next year.

Another year draws to a close and the silly season is upon us, it’s a fun but exhausting way to end the year! 

Here’s a few key themes I’ve encountered in 2023, that will still be in play into 2024: 

Indies on the march 

It’s a good time to be an independent agency in Australia, there is real momentum behind it.  

Mainly (I believe) because it’s a good product with a clear positioning and defined market.  There has been a gap in the market where mid-sized clients do not get serviced adequately by large agencies for a while now, and in the past, smaller clients just reluctantly put up with it and accepted it. Now there are options everywhere, indies with experienced staff, many who have stepped out of the furnace of group agency life, are focused and motivated to work on businesses that large agencies don’t love, and only service to make up the numbers.  

At an indie agency, a mid-sized client is gold and is treated as such, and the clients are noticing the difference. I can only see it continuing. In the past group agencies acquired the good indies as they came through, that was their model, but they hardly do that anymore, so will there continue to be more and more indies taking market share? Are the group agencies feeling that loss of market share? You’d have to think they are. Will they go back to an acquisition strategy? Or will the indies just keep growing? Let’s see what 2024 throws up. 

The market rollercoaster 

Overall advertising spend has been back slightly this year, but that is off the back of a really strong 2022. It actually hasn’t been too bad a year at the macro level, there have been winners and losers of course, but the total spend numbers are actually OK given the storm clouds that seem like a constant these days.  

Running a media business these last few years has not been for the faint hearted, and I’ve spoken to many a crusty old media sea dog who swears it’s the toughest it’s ever been. I just think that it’s more important than ever to be competent in the growth areas of the media landscape and focused on providing solutions that clients need help with today, while being aware that can change pretty quickly.  

On a personal note, at Yango, we’ve had a really good year, picked up some great new clients including BYD (EV’s), Frasers Industrial property, Scape (student accommodation) and MFAA (Mortgage and Finance Association of Australia). Alongside that, our existing clients have been spending so we’ve been OK, but as we saw in the pandemic years, you can get lucky (or unlucky) with the categories that your clients play in and the market conditions (travel, hospitality or aviation during the COVID years for example). This year we’ve been OK, I hope you have been too. 

AI and automation (yes, again) 

There’s been a lot said about these topics this year (some good, some total BS), and they are right at the top of the hype cycle, however I’m sure there is gold in them thar hills, so I’ll give my views!  

From my angle as an agency owner, it’s clear to see the opportunities with the automation of manual tasks that take place in an agency on a day to day basis. You could pick out almost any task and automate it, with the outcome leaving more time for our talented staff to focus on the things that matter most to our clients which is strategy, insights and implementation.  

The AI opportunity flows on from automation and with our tasks as media professionals increasingly being dominated by data and technology platforms, it seems logical that crunching data and making decisions based on it, quickly and across large data sets, is only going to increase and if AI can help us do that (which I’m sure it can) then happy days. It’s easy to say but hard to do, so let’s see how much progress we make on that in 2024, I’m sure we’re all heading down the AI path as quickly and effectively as we can.    

Nick Murdoch is Managing Partner at Yango  

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