Indie All The Way

Matt Van Hoven, who writes Agency Spy for MediaBistro, stirred some shit up today with a post that calls independently-owned agencies “farm teams.”

In speaking with ad folks from all over, I hear the same thing about agency hiring practices: strong independent shops hire the “best” kids out of school only to lose them a year or so later to bigger teams. This is how it’s done in baseball with one major difference: baseball teams own their farm leagues (usually) and can control their roster. Why don’t agencies do this?

The Founder writes on his blog, “Matt, come on man you know better than that…that post is just pure link bait.” And what do you know, here we are linking to it…
Another person, going by the name “goldoneshow,” replies on AgencySpy:

How would you know? You’re not a journalist. I’m not trying to be demeaning, but in the real world, you’re not. You’re a blog writer. Big difference. You may think there isn’t, but there is.

The thing I find weird about Van Hoven’s claim is how the indie shops are so much more well respected, creatively speaking, than shops owned by conglomerates. Crispin, Goodby and Chiat\Day are owned by behemoths and they rock, but the list falls off pretty quickly from there. Whereas, I can name small and not-so-small indie shops with creative cred all day long. Ground Zero, Wexley School for Girls, attik, Creature, Venables, Bell & Partners, Butler Shine Stern & Partners, Wong Doody, and Wieden + Kennedy are just a few West Coast indies that come instantly to mind.
As for “goldoneshow’s” biting commentary, I’d say it doesn’t take a journalist to know things, or to tell the truth. The fact that AgencySpy is a blog and Van Hoven is a blogger is not the problem. The reality is lots of talented people work in shops of all shapes and sizes. That’s the fact that keeps getting overlooked by all sorts of people inside and outside the business.
Take Portland, after Wieden there’s only one or two agency’s with more than 30 people. But there’s a great wealth of talent spread throughout the city’s small shops. I won’t start naming them off as I did above, but I will point to one great example. Substance, a firm with seven full time people, is featured in the CA 2010 Interactive Annual, which is on newsstands now.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.