Is Bigger Really Better?


The Publicis-Omnicom merger is the talk of ad land right now. Agencies big and small are discussing the ramifications of the merger of the two giants. Some ad mavens say this majorly changes the advertising game and others say that it’s all smoke and mirrors. Questions about agency size are rampant: Is bigger really better? What does the merger mean for smaller agencies? Are smaller agencies doomed to fail?

On one side we have the argument that a larger network enables agencies to provide high quality services; on the other side, we have the argument that smaller shops are more nimble, innovative, and flat out produce better results. Wieden of Wieden+Kennedy fame even went on record recently  to assert that small is beautiful.

It’s really difficult to objectively say which argument prevails. I can, however, objectively measure the creative results of agencies through publications like Communication Arts. I decided to do just that using the 2012 list of winners. The results? 66 percent  of awards were from agencies that were part of a large network. 34 percent were from smaller agencies that were not part of a large network and that had under 200 employees.

Now, this makes it seem like large networks have ‘won,’ but we also have to take into account certain discrepancies.  Firstly, large networks bring in billions of dollars of revenue. Surely, larger agencies are producing more work, therefore giving them more of a chance to receive awards. Secondly, we also have to account for all the offices within a network that operate like creative boutiques or idea incubators (I.E. Google Creative Lab).

When you decide to include smaller agencies that are part of a larger network, the results are absolutely stunning. More than half of all awards in Communication Arts end up coming from small agencies.  That’s not even taking into account agencies like Wieden+Kennedy, a large agency that tries to think like a smaller agency. Proving that, at least when it comes to creative, it doesn’t hurt to ‘Think small.’