“Indie Agencies Have People, Not Resources!” Affinity’S Angela Smith

Indie agencies are causing a big stir in the Australian media landscape at the moment, winning big clients and pinching equally big names from the large holding companies. A root cause of this success, according to Angela Smith, chief brand officer at AFFINITY, is that indie shops treat their staff as “people, not resources.”

Smith, (centre right) was speaking to a packed Rainforest room on the final official day of festivities in Queensland, alongside Jimmy Hyett (centre), CEO of This Is Flow; Jacquie Alley (centre left), chief operating officer at The Media Store and chairperson of the IMAA; and Adrian Roeling (far right), managing partner at Hatched.

Alley (centre left) was speaking to a packed Rainforest room on the final official day of festivities in Queensland, alongside Jimmy Hyett (centre), CEO of This Is Flow; Angela Smith (centre right), chief brand officer at AFFINITY; and Adrian Roeling (far right), managing partner at Hatched. 

In fact, Alley said that this different approach to managing staff time gave indies a distinct advantage over holdcos. Their staff were more deeply invested in the success of clients, rather than being spread thin across heaps of different clients. 

“We really do stand out in this space and we collectively have not had a talent problem, which is exciting. They go and visit the holdco side and they come because they’re saying ‘That wasn’t as great as I thought’ because they’re not resources. They’re working on ridiculous amounts of clients,” said Alley. 

However, while the indie agency execs on stage in Tropical North Queensland explained to moderator Sam Buchanan, (far left) CEO of the IMAA, and the audience that indies are perceived as lacking experience, this is far from true, either. 

“I think we’re often considered the red herring or the risky option and I would challenge any CMO on that because a lot of our staff have come from a whole range of different backgrounds and bring just as much clever thinking and results for our clients as anyone else,” continued Alley. 

“The average industry experience across Australia at the moment in agencies is seven years and in the last IMAA survey, it was 9.3. In fact, over 25 per cent of us have been in the industry for more than ten years, so there’s a real richness of experience.” 

Hyett even said that the holdcos were making a rod for their own back by not providing as compelling employee propositions as indies. 

“It’s really all credit to the holdcos beceause they’ve developed some really nice talent, with that breadth of experience and scale and with multiple clients and the process of working with big clients,” 

“It’s a great pool for us to poach from,” he said, to a laughing audience. 

This change of approach from the holdcos has borne fruit, with AFFINITY and Hatched coming first and second on the Australian Financial Review’s list of best media and marketing workplaces last year. 

However, Smith made clear that while independent agencies are certainly different from the large holding companies in terms of their employee proposition and relationship with clients, they should not be lumped in together. 

“We’re all really proud of our agency but we’re all actually very different. We get lumped into this basket of indies. We’re not all homogenous. We have very distinctive brand stories to tell,” she said. 

About Independent Media Agencies Australia

The IMAA was established in February 2020 as a new, national industry body that represents Australia’s independent media agencies. The IMAA promotes the benefits of working with independent media agencies, build awareness and respect for the sector, create a knowledge sharing forum and help build the Australian economy through supporting 100% Australian owned businesses. https://www.theimaa.com.au/