That’s kind of like asking, "Is that Chanel bag worth the money?"
For those who have the money to spend, and for those who care about status, then yes. Worth the money. But most of us – particularly these days – have to be more careful with how we spend.
That’s not to say that a big agency doesn’t have it’s pluses. Mostly they have a large staff, an impressive client list, and a really cool office where a nice girl with good manners answers the phones. Nice to have someone answer every time you call, right? The big agencies have amazing talent and they do cutting-edge work, and they have a huge support staff to handle all the day to day. The day you visit, the creative director with the funky glasses, sharp suit, $200 haircut and a long list of awards will usher you into a state of the art conference room with a view of the city and offer you an array of beverages to suit your mood before he sits you down to sign a contract for the fabulous job they will be doing for you.
Don’t look behind the curtain, Dorothy.
The truth of the matter is, that may be the last time you see or speak to the Creative Director. The guy who actually works on your project is likely a dude they just hired a couple months ago. It’s possible he’s never designed anything for print before but he’s got a lot of energy and some pretty cool sneakers and an ironic tshirt he just picked up from Threadless with a pink bunny on it. Plus he got an A on his graduation project, which he just finished last spring. This is the guy who will be designing project, probably with another slightly older guy overseeing him. If you are lucky enough to meet with the creative director again, he’ll be presenting pink bunny's work, talking you into loving it, and charging you $250/hr for it, while paying the guy in the sneakers $20 an hour. And the lady answering the phones? That’s all she does. She says hello and transfers you into voicemail.
You may think I'm exaggerating... but it's not too far from the truth. I’m not saying they don’t do great work – they very often do. This system does work and you may get a great project from them. But is it worth the extra money... really?
My point is – you can get great work from small companies too. Small companies often do the same level of work for much less money and a lot more personal service. I’m just saying… you’re paying an awful lot of money to speak to an answering machine and work with a designer that has little or no experience.
The small company advantage
- Small = more creative control: Don't confuse being small with not being very good. Most small companies have made a decision to stay small. A smaller group of creatives usually means one person will be managing your project the entire way through, and likely doing a lot of the creative work themselves. Your job won't be shared out amongst a big group of workers at all different levels of experience and interest. You are talking directly to the person who will be working on your project, less chance of your communication getting lost in the shuffle.
- Small = top level creatives: Being the owner of a small agency, I can say that all the creative work coming from Andiamo is done by top level designers, writers, illustrators, programmers, etc. Each creative on staff has been working in the industry for 10 years or more and brings all that experience to the table when working on your project.
- Small company = you are the big fish: Since we have fewer clients, each one is very important. That means you get great service. We care about your project, and about your business because if your project goes well and your business thrives, that reflect well on us and we do well. And we want to do well.
- Small company = responsiveness: We don’t have a receptionist – but we do have voicemail. And we will return your call usually within the day. Certainly by the next working day.
So – are big agencies worth the money?
If you have money to spend and get a thrill to say your designer also worked on the new Louis Vuitton website, then yes. But if you need to be more careful about how you spend, and who doesn't lately, then give us a call.