Is Smaller Really Better?

Pop! Pr invented the "Arnold Effect" the other day, characterizing how the Schwarzenegger team concentrated their campaign efforts at influencing local and regional papers. According to Jeremy, small and medium-sized PR shops will profit in 2004 as clients find that, sometimes, large PR outfits lose sight of the trees for the forest. Small to medium sized firms are better suited to local, grass roots campaigns, as they are more apt to look at the larger picture and realize that it's not just about the large hits, but about messaging and wider range of the public. Hence, they work with the smaller, local media.

By working with smaller firms, clients can profit from greater attention from the principals, more detailed knowledge of local and regional issues, closer relationships with local media, and a willingness to include innovative and individual tactics in campaigns.

There are some parallels in comments Martin Sorrell of WPP made in a recent PRWeek: More focus, less dilution. More specialization. I still think if we know more about a topic, we will succeed. I think it's organization. Having fewer, better people at the top, and bringing in better young people who can do the implementation and learn the business over time. Well, except for the small and medium-sized part.

But the new focus on individual attention isn't limited to the PR industry. Over at Saatchi, Kevin Dundas is emphasizing the breadth of their work and expertise: "We have gone through the phase of being an advertising agency. That's gone. More and more, we have become an ideas company." Unfortunately, his strategy is anchored by the concept of account planning - whose emphasis on testing and data often seems like creativity for quants.

Is there a happy median - for the holding companies? Can they have their shareholder capitalization cake and eat it too? Boy Meets Girl S&J is going to try. The new London shop was formed by an alliance between an Interpublic network and the mutineering ex-founders from London's well-reviewed St. Luke's.

"Advertising can only do a number of things," [Managing Director David] Pemsel explains. "In the past it has ignored other activities such as direct marketing, PR and design. And, for all the current talk of integration, I have failed to come across anyone genuinely able to create ideas and articulate them well through any form of communication. That's the Boy Meets Girl vision."

Despite the rush to "customization" by the holding companies and larger agencies, there are opportunities for small and mid-sized PR firms. You only have to look at how advertisers are examining how marketing, advertising and PR tactics can be used to communicate with the hispanic and "brown pound" markets.

And, as PR WEEK cautions this week: But as the number of Hispanics increases, so do the complexity of the demographic and the nuances of the culture. Hispanics present scary territory for many corporations: a consumer that cannot be ignored but is often not well understood by those spending the marketing dollars - making a more inclusive 'urban' approach an attractive, less threatening option.

And this presents an opportunity for well-informed small and mid-sized agencies.