April 27, 2022 / Thought Leadership

The Year of the Independent Agency

Allie Pignataro, Associate Media Director

It’s early April in Palm Springs, it’s hot as hell in the desert, and media agencies, advertising agencies, and technology companies alike are strolling through the doors of the Miramonte Hotel, two years after the onset of COVID-19. Everyone is ready to embrace new and old faces, but more importantly, navigate this new era of change and uncertainty that has undoubtedly made its mark on the advertising industry.

I was lucky enough to attend this year’s Digiday Media Buying Summit where I listened in on many fireside chats and panels, as well as participated in town-halls and group discussions surrounding the hot topics in the media and marketing world. There were a lot of interesting conversations about new media channels, data privacy, etc., but there was one in particular that really struck home for me: the rise of the independent agency.

I know this idea isn’t necessarily a new phenomenon per-se. But although the pandemic has disrupted ad agencies of all sizes, it’s become clear that this ‘experience’ has really showcased the power of the independent agency model. I was very proud to be representing Connelly Partners prior to the summit, but I left feeling even more proud to be part of an organization that embodies and exhibits the unique value and strengths that independents can offer.

To highlight a few:


Surviving in the marketing industry means being able to quickly adapt to the needs of your consumer. As market demands continue to change at extremely high rates, there is an insane amount of value in the ability to be flexible. Every company knows that. Leaving wiggle room for innovation and change is a vital part of being successful. Simply put, ad agencies that are independent have less red tape. They’re free from agency network bureaucracy, allowing them to make quicker decisions and react at speed. 


Independent ad agencies make their own choices versus having them made for them. This is reflected in the talent that they hire, the various strategic business decisions they make, and having the privilege of seeking out prospective clients who are like-minded, demonstrate very similar passions, and exemplify the same philosophies and values.


Independent ad agencies are able to take accountability for every action they take, both good and bad. But, they kind of have to as small shops as there’s no one else to pass the blame to. While it’s easy to bask in success, it’s equally important to own up to mistakes. This type of transparency works well for both clients and employees.


Independent ad agencies are typically smaller and have fewer resources. This can actually be perceived as quite a large advantage as it provides departments more clarity and encouragement to be resourceful in how to think about developing and communicating new ideas, strategies and insights. The notion of “less is more” is completely suitable in this case. Independents scratch the surface to find solutions that perhaps haven’t been contemplated by others previously.

It was rewarding to hear many people share the same perspective in that independent agencies know damn well how business is run. They are laser-focused on the well-being of the client, while also taking the time to understand their bottom line. Most importantly, independent ad agencies truly care about the impact their work and dedication has on the overall business, a priceless aspect that money can’t buy.