Bigger can be better for creativity
Greg Quinton, chief creative officer at The Partners, argues that larger agencies have many advantages
The Partners is soon to be part of WPP’s super-agency, along with Brand Union, Lambie-Nairn, Addison Group and VBAT. But to be honest, I’ve never been sure why people worry so much about the size of agencies.
‘What’ we do is fundamentally the same; we all try our best to solve our clients’ problems. ‘How’ we do it varies a little, but the real variable is the ‘why’ – and that has nothing at all to do with size, but rather attitude and ambition.
As a control freak (all creative directors are), I really do understand the attraction of small-scale. If I was a purist graphic designer, I’d enjoy the level of detail involved. But I’m not the usual graphic designer any more.
What excites me now is all to do with scale. You get involved in the business at the core and help with the fundamentals. Then, working higher with the most senior staff, you directly affect change that goes wider. Creativity is the tool for change, and it goes from the big idea at the top to the tiniest of details at the bottom.
We apply the same approach to clients of all sizes. Sure, being a bigger agency does attract big brands as they obviously need the reassurance of working with people who understand the implications of scale, geography and localisms. But in addition, client confidence is growing and it’s wonderful to see braver creativity being demanded. Those are the moments we do this for: whether it’s for global, national, local, big business, arts or charity, scale gives us the ability and credibility to help them all. We are making a real and positive difference through something that we love: creativity.
The challenge is to always focus on the solution (and by the way, the answer is always in the problem), and remember that our clients (brands) are people, and that they need to communicate with other people (the audience). Do that right and the work feels empathic, and personal. Truly great work touches the soul, drives interest in the brands, and consequently interest in the agency that creates the work; great work truly is the best new business tool you can have.
BIG BUT FLEXIBLE
Our new company is incredibly exciting. We have a network of 750 people in 20 offices around the world, appealing to more clients because they’ll be able to engage with a wider array of specialists and a more connected set of services. With the repercussions of Brexit and the threat of another recession, you need to be a flexible agency to change and adapt to clients’ needs more easily, and being bigger means you can do this without impacting the quality of work or designers’ time.
Designers like to see the direct consequence of their work. When they first start out it’s the the pride of the first print, the first award and the first happy client. As that becomes routine, most designers like doing more, affecting more and helping more.
There is nothing worse than a bored designer, but if you’re an agency of scale, the number of projects and teams that talented people can move between is greater. That’s what you want to facilitate – the flow of ideas across a wide range of work.
Meanwhile, the creative industry as a whole is growing in the UK, which is a great sign for small and large agencies alike; it means more clients are looking to solve business challenges with creative solutions. But it’s important to look beyond that and work out how an agency can harness current momentum and carry it into other markets.
If you create an environment for designers where they are working with people from all corners of the globe, you’re going to create more interesting and relevant work as a result. We’re designing for clients that have consumers around the world, so it’s important that we embed ourselves in those locations – big agencies must have a global perspective with a local understanding.
Another element that comes with being bigger is the opportunity to say no. It’s really important that the design industry makes a conscious effort to always create work that is in line with the principles we value.
KEEPING IN SHAPE
Don’t get me wrong, crafting to a consistently high standard at scale is not a walk in the park – it takes a lot of effort, and creative management of individuals and teams, to make sure your output is always ambitious and ground-breaking, while also doing the seemingly impossible of remaining personal and relevant to the client. But if it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth it. Fancy being part of it?