Independence really matters, and agency independence matters to Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs).
There is a long history of independence celebrated in the United States: “Pursuing independence was dangerous. Defying the most powerful empire in the world meant accepting the great risk that came with doing so.” Come and Take It for historians. Strawberry Frog for advertising veterans.
To fully appreciate agency independence CMOs should consider a holding company and publicly owned agency. I have deep appreciation for my time at both Omnicom Group and Interpublic Group. The training, opportunity, friendships, wins, losses, awards, laughs and compensation made me who I am today…for better or worse. And I am incredibly thankful to both holding companies. These experiences have enabled me to understand and harness the power of independence as a strategic advantage for success.
Independence offers clients three crucial advantages: speed, flexibility, and leadership.
Speed is mandatory for clients today. Clients and businesses often have less than 18 months, and sometimes less than 9 months, to demonstrate performance. Failure to deliver results can lead to CMO replacements or strategy and agency partner reevaluations. Independent agencies excel at delivering the speed clients demand by employing forward-looking design thinking and establishing efficient systems of people, processes, and technologies. Arm Candy operates at the speed of retail, benefiting clients across various industries. For example, retail-based clients include Goodyear, PF Chang’s, Tiff’s Treats and Boardroom Styling Salon, which have all given the team valuable insight into flighting and fast pivots.
Flexibility is also vital in meeting clients’ evolving needs. Agencies must be open to change and willing to adapt. Independence allows agencies to readily modify contractual arrangements, compensation structures, team compositions, and mindsets. Business and financial pressures often necessitate adjustments to key performance indicators (KPIs) and desired outcomes. Arm Candy, for instance, is agile and responsive, swiftly adjusting projections, dashboards, and media strategies to accommodate shifting landscapes.
Leadership, not just management, is crucial for clients today. Thought leaders and entrepreneurs bring a distinct perspective that sets them apart from mere accountants or corporate lifers. Their expertise is worth the investment as they prioritize their people and ensure clients have the industry’s best talent dedicated to their business. Leaders embrace and uphold core values consistently and unwaveringly, benefiting clients in the long run. In contrast, managers may prioritize their superiors, shareholders, and immediate realities.
As CMOs look to survive longer than their peers in the role, I recommend that you carefully consider independent agencies. Reflect on how the advantages of speed, flexibility, and leadership can drive the results and business outcomes necessary for both short-term wins and long-term sustainability.