Perspective - The perfect positioning of independent agencies

By Daniel Willis | 29 November 2023
Daniel Willis.

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

2023: Holy shit. I think this will be the third consecutive year that we’ll all look at each other on New Years Eve and ask “what the fuck was that?”

The world is a wild place right now: extreme cost of living pressures, horrific wars, a pending (some would argue) economic recession along with many other economic, social and cultural events impacting our daily lives. Collectively all of these have shaped our industry this year.

Lots of clients are unsettled, unsure and preparing for the worst. Even for the boldest clients there’s no escaping what’s happening and the impact that’s having - or may soon have - on their business. I believe this plays out as a double-edged sword – a negative for slow moving, large agencies and networks, unwilling or unable to provide the agility brands are currently seeking, but a huge positive for agile agencies without the bureaucratic red tape that have the ability and desire to move swiftly.

Leading Independents are positioned perfectly to work fluidly with brands seeking the same, or more, but for less. In Claxon’s instance, our heavy lean into creative AI has helped us win work from these exact types of clients as it’s allowed them to realise the ‘impossible’ – far more for far less.

I’d love to say 2024 will be different, better and easier…however none of us know. I, like I’m sure anyone reading this was saying at the end of 2022 – “Wow that was a fucked year, 2023 is definitely going to be better”. The industry outlook for 2024 is directly tied to the multitude of current macro-economic issues and unfortunately, they don’t look like going away any time soon. I believe brands will continue to be more conservative, even fearless challenger brands, and money isn’t as easy to raise right now which helps to dampen the ‘raise, grow, raise, grow, raise, grow’ rhythm we’ve experienced off the back of Covid. I believe all of the above will continue to create favourable conditions for leading Indies to gobble up work from the less agile HoldCos, and will provide problems overall, irrespective of agency size, for those not willing to bend and flex to meet both the clients’ needs and levels of comfort with spend.

Whether the talent crisis is over would likely be a yes or no depending on who you ask. I’ve seen less innovative agencies struggling to find and retain great (or even average talent) whilst the agencies brave enough to be embracing innovation and agility (not just in their creds deck) are seeming to have their pick of the who’s who.

Talent is drawn to these attractants like a moth to a flame and that appears again to be irrespective of agency size. And at the end of the day, your people will be what defines what 2024 looks like for you.

Daniel Willis is Chairman & CEO of Claxon

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