The agency model is not dead yet, at least in Hong Kong where there are at least 40 network and independent creative agencies, with a new one cropping up every now and then.
Joining the fray of independent agencies is Many Many More, a one-stop creative shop with technical and production offerings from former TBWA\Hong Kong executive creative director Esther Wong. Wong announced the launch of her venture shortly after completing her gardening leave. Her partners are Kwai Bun, founder of production company Many Many Creations, Bonnie Leung and Joseph Wong, former head of art at TBWA\Hong Kong.
“I believe everyone would have thought of starting their own agency one day at some point in their career,” Wong tells Campaign Asia-Pacific. “I’m certainly not the first independent agency. We have to look at why there are so many independent agencies…because the market needs it. Many clients want to be flexible and faster… and talk to the people directly involved in the campaign.”
While noting the strength of 4A agencies, especially in regional pitches, Wong emphasised that full-service independent agencies allow clients to know the timeline, budget and feasibility of an idea almost immediately. “Sometimes after selling an idea to the client, the creatives may have to back down later after an expensive quotation from the vendor,” she says.
Wong cut her teeth as a copywriter with Saatchi & Saatchi before spending more than 10 years with TBWA. “When I went on a holiday to London years ago, the immigration officer who had a long face became so excited after seeing the travel support letter issued by Saatchi & Saatchi. Those were really the golden days of advertising; even an immigration officer had heard of the agency,” she reminisces.
While independent shops certainly do not enjoy the stature that comes from a global network, Wong foresees that the main challenge will instead be the fast pace of the market. “The network certainly has some advantage in regional pitch, but I always feel that independent agencies are more culture focused.”
She does not fear competition from in-house teams either as she believes the production scale of most is still far behind the video and installation production capabilities of an agency.
Wong says Many Many More will be focused on the Hong Kong and China markets, since she and her partners are experienced in both markets while some of their Hong Kong-based clients are interested in launching in China.
"I wouldn't say that Hong Kong is necessarily lagging behind China. The Chinese market is huge, that is why you can feel that many things are happening there," she says. "But due to its sheer size, there are rather many average [agencies] there. There are [also] very good agencies out there, no matter in China or Hong Kong."