Why the world needs more ad agencies

The world needs more ad agencies, according to Nick Cummins, creative partner at The Royals. His presentation at Adfest Pattaya detailed the hows, whys, dos and don’ts of setting up an agency, Ravi Balakrishnan reports.

On starting an agency:

“It is like having a kid. You are initially worried about everything, but in four years, it is like having a 15-year-old: you can take a weekend off without worrying.

“At 10 years, it is like having a 27-year-old, it’s going its own way and doesn’t need you.”

Nick Cummins of The Royals spoke at Adfest 2019 in Pattaya

On why you should start an agency:

“I truly believe in the power of what we can do as individuals. The kind of people who come into agencies are incredibly intelligent and strategic and come up with solutions no one else would have thought of.

“We are at a crossroads in the business. Times are tough and budgets smaller. Some businesses that have been huge and successful are crumbling and others are falling down. But I think of it like the bushfires in Australia; once it is over, green shoots emerge.

“New agencies are easier to build and grow than changing old ones. If something has done well for 30 years, and have certain processes in place, it is hard to change. It is amazing how many clients approached me and put us on pitch lists just because we were new.

“You can future proof yourself. A lot of people in MNC agencies earning fat salaries say they are just waiting for a tap on the shoulder that means. My business could close tomorrow, but at least I would see it coming.”

How do you start an agency?

“You could get fired but that’s not the best way.

“Or you can get excited and make a business about the bits you love about the job.

“Try taking a client with you. When we started, we thought of the clients we had a great relationship with which we could bring on board and not one of them came. But if you have an amazing relationship with a client, it’s a lovely way to start with some security and confidence.

“Pick partners wisely: Don’t just pick people you like and your friends.

“Planning is something you can do part time. You can still be employed and start working nights. doing the groundwork. That’s how we started.

“Save six months salary give up red meat, expensive booze and if you are thinking of quitting smoking, this would be a great time.

“We get paid pretty well in advertising, and to walk away is scary. But you move past that quickly and it makes for a better dinner party story.”

The dos:

“Have a big office, and not just because its impressive for clients. Don’t work out of a bedroom. When you expand and it is time to move, it will get really expensive.

“Fly under the radar for a while. Don’t get too shouty with the first piece of work. Don’t brag; build a body of work, a reputation and then tell the world.

“Stay true: when you are thinking about the agency you want to build, you will know the sort of work you want to do. But it is hard not to take on businesses even if someone wants you to do something entirely different. You can say no to clients. If you start doing work that is not what you set out to do, you will get put in that bucket.”

The don’t’s:

“Don’t go part time.

“Don’t do everything: pick the things you are good at and stick with them.

“Don’t be afraid. And don’t be afraid to sack a client. We had clients who made our staff cry and we told them ‘this is not going to work out’.

“Don’t lease: We were paying a lease on five or six computers long after we’d thrown them out. Try to avoid leasing and getting a bank loan.”


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