The Payout of Being Independent

Launching an independent company without the resources of a big corporation is not for the faint of heart. Antonio Ocaranza Fernández, Director of OCA Reputacion, hosts the Oath sponsored stage and asks what drives the independent agencies. Why is it important to have independent agencies versus agencies with a board or a holding company?

In the ecosystem of advertising, independents add some much needed excitement and fresh ideas. Without having to answer to a stock market or private investors, independents are more likely to push the status quo and challenge the norm. Billy Jurewicz, of Space150, citing Mexico and the United States having cultural histories of rebellion and independence, says independence in our blood and adds, “If you’re entrepreneurial, and you have high tolerance for risk, you should go for independence!”

Independent agencies grow their in-house talent in a less constrained, free environment, and with a smaller crew can have much faster turn-around than a larger agency. With that, there is a double-edged sword because an independent agency thrives and fails due to their own decisions.

The catalyst for breaking out into business is not unanimous across the stage. Some speakers, such as Raúl Cardós of Anoniom, were doing very well in their career, but were “too comfortable” and no longer doing the exciting creative work which was their first love. Yosu Arangüena, founder and Executive Creative Director of Made México, says it was because he loves to continue learning, and taking on the risk himself to fail and learn. Billy Jurewicz had been fired 14 times (!), mostly due to disagreeing with slow moving authority, and decided the writing was on the wall to be his own authority. While each of these original motivations to launch is different, the drive to keep going is unanimous: they all believed they could do better and build a business model that had a stronger connection to clients.

Yosu says it best, “I believe in couture. I believe things can be better.”

Even small, independent agencies grow and eventually become large companies. Antonio presents the conundrum to the group and asks them how they do not become what they originally set out to flee?

Matheus Barros, with the largest independent company of the group, FLAGCX, admits it will always be a question that will haunt him. Matheus says growth and change happen, but FLAGCX keeps smaller agency within FLAGCX to keep from having large, overarching management and the creativity-killing management culture. “It’s not about changing the culture all the time, it’s about the culture of changing all the time.”

While the temptation to sell out to a holding company or a larger agency has come up to almost every panel member, they all agree the offers are almost never the golden parachutes they’re pitched to be. The independent agencies may have to look real risk, fear, and failure in the face every day, but they no longer have second thoughts about mediocrity, or what if they really pushed the envelope more because they have the freedom to cultivate talent, make quick decisions, and own every success.

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