October 1, 2023

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5 lessons from the Ad Age Small Agency Conference—celebrating innovation and independent spirit

Lesson #3:

Nobody cares where you’re from. Being an agency from Toronto had zero negative impact. We now have a successful and growing office in New York, but at the time we didn’t, and no one cared. Everyone embraced us just as we were.

Lesson #4:

It’s a support network for new agencies. Emerging small agencies are good for the industry. Their entrepreneurial and creative energy constantly renews and rejuvenates the business, keeping it fresh and innovative. They have not yet been jaded by an industry that can get too big, too fat and too risk-averse to stay creative. Years later, we’re still in contact with many of the agency leaders we met, helping and supporting each other.

Lesson #5:

Keeping the indie tradition alive. When we won, 2015 winner OKRP (O’Keefe, Reinhard, and Paul) gave us a metal briefcase with whiskey and bananas in it (apparently a ritual at their shop). The winner in 2017 was New York’s Terri & Sandy, founded by two fearless women who broke away from bigger shops to do their own thing. At the awards show, we presented them with a Small Agency of the Year Survival Kit. We’ve been cheering each other on ever since.

Now that we’re more than 150 strong in Canada, we’re no longer eligible to enter. Instead, we’ll be keeping our eyes out for the next crop of small indies and cheering them on from the sidelines.


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