Independence is a wonderful thing. It keeps you hungrier than the big guys. You need to be smarter, faster and more versatile to survive.
There is an agility required from being independent that you simply don't get from an agency boasting a five hundred-strong staff count. And when you're up against those kinds of agencies in pitch scenarios, it's that much more gratifying to win. Same goes for awards. It somehow feels bigger when you beat the Big Guns. That's why we joined an independent in the first place.
There is no room for complacency and unlike some of the globally aligned agencies you are never guaranteed a piece of business, which again makes an account win so much sweeter.
South Africa seems to be a breeding ground - and a fertile one at that - for smaller independent agencies. We are blessed to have some of the most talented and successful independent agencies on our doorstep. There's a kind of kinship that's shared amongst fellow indies, an attitude of independence, if you will.
As Steve Jobs said - why join the navy if you can be a pirate?
Anyway... working for an independent was a conscious decision we made. Overall, being part of a shop that thinks for itself and determines its own destiny, only ever being gauged by the quality of its work, (without the help or support of a global network) has been a hugely rewarding experience... We love our people, and there's always been an unmistakable spirit of friendship and camaraderie at Volcano. Not only in the Creative Department, but in the entire agency. Something not always found in larger, globally aligned agencies.
Enter GREY. Adweek and Advertising Age Global Agency of the Year. 432 offices in 96 countries, operating in 154 cities. The Big Guns.
The Big Guns who were interested in Volcano. To be honest, if one mentions "GREY" to most South African ad people, the first thing that probably pops up is their rather sudden departure from these shores. Yet globally this network won almost all the agency of the year awards for the last few years running - producing some of the world's most creative and effective work for their clients. Clients like Lucozade, Canon, Puma, Hugo Boss, Vodafone and P&G, not to mention being the first ad agency to win an Emmy award.
Pretty impressive stuff. Yet what is most refreshing is their culture. They talk of pioneering a different way of working. They call it "Open".
"Open" provides direct access to creatives and planners. No barriers to entry. No executive sign-offs, no production lines, and most importantly... no egos.
They talk about smart, fast, agile and versatile solutions. No physical departmental structures, allowing for multi-discipline teams to cluster around the task in hand, rather than rigidly sticking within their department boundaries.
So kind of like we've always done.
Except now with the backing of a global like-minded family. It's nice. So the decision to go from being one of the largest, leading independent ad agencies in South Africa to joining one of the world's largest, most awarded creative networks was a surprisingly easy one.
Funny how the more things change, the more they stay the same.
We are GREY Jhb. And as hungry as ever.