Since the advent of digital, a lot has been said about disruption and how ‘disruptors’ have basically sent shockwaves across every industry vertical. In the retail industry, e-commerce has terraformed the landscape for the foreseeable future. In the banking, insurance and payments sphere, fintech has sparked a seamless revolution. Automation ensures a glitch-free manufacturing process whilst wearables and IoT devices have redefined healthcare and fitness regimes. But what about the ad (mad) world? Is it really prone to disruption, and if yes, who are the disruptors in the advertising and communications industry?

Enter boutique agencies. These start-ups are characterized by agile, efficient teams who work like a well-oiled machine, unhindered by the shackles of legacy structures. In that regard, you could say they are truly boundaryless organizations. Agency infighting, sometimes romanticized in shows like Mad Men, has been done away with like many other legacy systems from that era. Of course, we also have our differences, but we tend to resolve them in a much healthier and more amicable manner. As much as we love the smoke-filled boardrooms of Mad Men which serve to be breeding grounds for the sleaziest, cheesiest, morally-defunct ads, deep inside we all know that things had to change – especially the not-so-subtle racism and patriarchy.

Alas, I digress. This blog is not a social commentary; it’s about why disruptors in the advertising and communications space are successful, sustainable, and why they’re in it for the long haul. It is first imperative to understand that disruptors aren’t the result of some knee-jerk reaction. If they were, they wouldn’t be successful or sustainable. Disruptors in every vertical came about because there was a need to be serviced, an opportunity to be explored, or a glitch in the matrix that needed to be fixed. The same is true for advertising, communications and marketing.

Amidst shrinking marketing budgets, a lack of synergy between clients and their respective agencies, and the need for digitally-proficient communications, the time was ripe for boutique agencies to rise up and thrive. Let me be very clear because this is the important part:

  • We are digital natives, not digital immigrants
  • In line with our fellow disruptors in other industries, we are trendsetters, not followers
  • We believe that communications whether B2B or B2C is ultimately person-to-person (P2P)
  • We look to be strategic partners and not just communication vendors for our clients
  • Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we see ourselves as successors and not substitutes to the traditional big players

It is not surprising then that a plethora of boutique agencies have cropped up all over the world. Of course, inevitably, some have been acquired with haste by The Big Five. Let me tell you something, these M&A(s) are steeped in fear and paranoia, rather than opportunity and investment. Our attractive value-for-money (VFM) operating model and our fresh, innovative outlook send shivers down their spines. Our wacky workplaces are extremely conducive to new age talent – the ones who will take YOUR company forward.

The big agencies are slowly but surely losing their SPECTRE-like grasp over the advertising and communications space. The future is global and interconnected but not interdependent. Remember, we tried interdependent in the past and it, well, sort of blew up in our face (Remember 2007-08?). The old structures are overly interdependent while being rigid at the same time and this is their biggest failing. They hide behind the veil of ‘network resources’ but when their interdependencies are exposed, a cascading domino effect could sweep it all away. A small change in the tide could spell disaster. Even the mightiest rocks are subject to weathering, but when you’re agile like the tide itself, you can ride wherever you like.

We, at Circuit9, believe that the global marketplace of the future is going to be an amalgamation of smaller, niche markets where quality-driven products will be sold to niche customers. Here, in this scenario, the boutique agencies will do what they do best and serve the makers and providers of these new age quality-driven products. The new global marketplace will be like the web of life itself – interconnected and self-regulating with subtle, hidden interdependencies, and we believe that the future is NOW!