What big ad agencies don't want you to know

I’ve been a writer in the advertising industry for a long time. Having worked at “the household name” agencies in Boston, Chicago and New York City, I can tell you, if you’re a small business owner, stick with a smaller advertising agency.

Yes, I know those bigger agencies have fancy, glass-walled conference rooms with comfy chairs, touchscreens and 14 different types of gourmet coffee. But, in the long run, who’s actually paying for all of that stuff?

That’s right. You are.

And if you looked behind the curtain, you’d realize that lean and mean is the only way to go when it comes to marketing your business. Let’s take a closer look at why, shall we?


There are too many people “working” on your business

I’ve been in kickoff meetings for small projects, a simple email or a banner, and there have been no less than three account people and two project managers in the meeting. Most of them half-listening and playing around on their phones. It’s completely unnecessary and a total waste of the client’s money.

When you work an agency designed for small businesses, the team you work with is going to be smaller and completely focused on you. With smaller companies, there’s no “slush fund” for hours like there are with some of your Fortune 500s, so a small business and startup-focused agency won’t charge additional markups, fees or add-ons. The cost structure is transparent, so you’re only paying for time spent on your project.


Without the big bucks, you’re not getting the A-team

Creative people at big agencies have… big egos. They want to work on the projects that are going to send them to Cannes, not to Canton, Ohio (or wherever your business is based). Some creatives also lean heavily on the budgets they have to execute the work. They’ll pitch ideas with spokespeople, car explosions or “built to scale” dinosaurs, because it’s easier than actually coming up with a simple, brilliant idea.

“Creative people at big agencies have… big egos. They want to work on the projects that are going to send them to Cannes, not to Canton”


Small business advertising agencies know they don’t have the luxury of huge production budgets. Which is why they come up with great ideas geared to small businesses. They come at your project or campaign in a way that’s going to solve your problems, not get them noticed. With a small business agency like the fine one you’re reading this from (ahem, Sink Ships), you’re getting top-shelf art direction, writers and graphic artists who want to provide you with the best work without wasting your time. Refreshing, right?


Big agencies don’t work that hard to keep you happy

When agencies have a roster of “big-name” clients, the little guys have a way of falling to the bottom of the list. For example, if a multi-million dollar account is in review and they have to pitch to retain the business, you can bet a big agency is going to pull all their creatives off what they’re working on to get “all hands-on deck.” That means, as a smaller client, you’re getting a burnt-out creative (most likely pulling double duty) working on marketing your livelihood. Not good.

With a reputable small agency, they’re striving every day to live up to your expectations. They’re a “get in the trenches, fight alongside you, leave everything on the battlefield” kind of partner. They want to make you successful, because that means they were successful in helping to get you there.

So if you’re a small business or startup, stick with an agency that specializes in “the little guy.” They’ll help you get the results you need to buy your own fancy coffee.