Ad Agency Life: The Time is Ripe For Micro


By Scott Goodson, Founder of global ad-agency StrawberryFrog.

There is a reason why we have begun calling ourselves at StrawberryFrog a “micro-agency.”

At the vanguard of a flowering advertising scene predicted to soon set the global market alight, Micro ad agencies, we believe, are blazing a trail around the planet with limitless energy and fragrant ideas. This is the good stuff at a time when the world needs positive energy and enthusiasm alongside strategic and creative excellence and boundless innovation. Because negative energy is a downer and zero energy gets you nowhere.

In places like India, where the advertising market has been dominated by massive holding company agencies, we think positioning ourselves as a micro global agency presents an important difference. JWT India for example employs over 1,000 people. Creatively, India is a powerhouse with incredible talent. Just look at how well India did in the recent International Advertising Festival in Cannes. And the industry is changing rapidly if you follow the writing of Anant Rangaswama, Editor of Campaign India. The opportunity in India is the opportunity to maximize a fragmenting media world and the acceleration of the cultural digital world, and harness, as challengers, new technology and new perspectives.

One such perspective is that Indian, as well as pan-Asian marketing, can be led out of Mumbai, as opposed to Singapore, which is the traditional center of Asia Pacific brand leadership. The web and the media revolution is making the world bigger and breaking down the traditional oceanic trade routes in favor of alternative thinking.

India also presents us with some amazing new brand names that many – at least here in the United States or in Europe – have not much heard about yet. In India, there are an elite group of brands and companies that are globalizing their businesses; one such example is Mahindra & Mahindra. As these firms globalize they will both build their own brands as well as acquire brands. In the case of India’s automotive companies, Mahindra has decided to launch its diesel-powered vehicles in the USA under it’s own brand, while TATA bought Land Rover and Jaguar to expand its business. Two different companies, two different corporate brands and visions, two different approaches, both set on expanding their global footprint, especially into the U.S.

Behind these firms are hundreds of companies manufacturing and developing technologies that are designed and engineered by Indians, and which, I believe, will become household names in the years ahead.

To capture the essence of pace and innovation that is smashing through the conventional hierarchical structure around which the legacy agencies have always been built, look also at Brazil. When StrawberryFrog opened its offices there last year, it was one of the first independent micro agencies in the market. My partner in Brazil and the agency’s CEO Peralta grew the agency quickly, landing first Natura Brasil, the giant beauty company, and then Pepsico and the Quaker brand for Latin America.

In today’s challenging economic environment, the buzzword is momentum. Motivation, inspiration and knowledge are also key. So is the belief that you can beat the dinosaurs, that the “system is broken,” and that anything is possible. This is the microcondria DNA that runs through the veins of the micro agency. “I would say that we gain creativity and freshness because our people are marching on their toes all the time,” says Peralta of StrawberryFrog Brazil, who most recently took over the biggest TV show in the country – Brazil’s version of Big Brother – and glued the cast together by their heads using Super Bonder, their country’s strongest glue brand.

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Tying brands to cultural content in seamless ways that doesn’t look like advertising is being led by micro shops. Natura Brazil is producing a feature-length movie about amorous relationships. The idea is to broach the subject of relationships, common to everybody’s reason for being, beliefs and vision of the world, in a completely unique fashion. The distinction is also present in the co-creative process of the script, which is based on love stories that are being recorded by the brand’s consultants and consumers on a

The opportunity and payoff to get this right is huge. Per capita consumption of cosmetics and personal care products in Brazil is expected to increase at a CAGR of 15.49% during 2008-2011.

As advertisiers have become savvier about true return-on-asset analysis in judging whether their money is well spent, they are, in my experience, more interested than ever in buying the best ideas, not the agencies with the biggest footprints. Look around your office, and even your car. The things you rely on are micro—flash drives, cellphones, mp3 players, and cool laptops are smaller than their predecessors. I guess what I’m saying is that maybe Micro is the new big idea.

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