The Case for Independent Agency Networks

Gary Burandt Executive Director of ICOM Ad Agencies

In light of the POG merger announcement it seems appropriate to review the benefits of independent networks.

This guest article was written by Gary Burandt, the executive director of of the International Communications Agency Network, Inc. (ICOM), a $3 billion USD network of 90 independent agencies in 70 countries. Gary is an Ad agency veteran and has worked around the world for top global agencies.

First, let’s address the apparent oxymoron of “independent network.” ICOM is made up of agencies owned and operated by local entrepreneurs all over the world who understand the necessity of international resources in today’s global marketplace.

In many cases their names are proudly on the door.  They often started as trainees at one of the large multinational networks: Y&R, DDB, O&M, JWT, etc., back before those agencies went public, doing good work and investing in training their young people.

But as their careers progressed they grew impatient with the bureaucracy.  Their frustrations multiplied when these agencies began to form still more initials and acronyms; IPG, WPP, OMNICOM, HAVAS, MDC, etc.  Quickly the focus changed from the creative work being done to help the client’s business to the next quarterly financial report and to help the holding company’s business.

So these courageous entrepreneurs left and started their own agencies taking with them those that shared the same values; attention to the clients’ business and to the staff that makes it happen.  Not surprisingly this approach was well received by clients who liked working with agency principals.   Their agencies prospered.

At the same time their clients were starting to expand their businesses abroad.  They were asking their agencies for the same quality of service in new markets beyond national borders.  These agencies did not want to replicate the multinationals they’d left, but they knew in this globalized marketplace they needed resources and connections across borders to grow.

This was the genesis of the oxymoron “independent networks”; entrepreneurial agencies coming together with minimum administration to serve their clients’ needs internationally.  They did not sell their equity or freedom to Paris, London or New York.  Rather they pay dues to be members in an organization of selected similar agencies that work well together.

There are a very small number of truly international independent networks, and they are not all alike.  So why choose ICOM? 

ICOM is the biggest with over $3 billion in turnover and 90+ members in 70+ countries.  But big is not a strategy or necessarily a benefit – here are a few other things to consider:

  • ICOM is 63 years old so we’ve had time to develop the policies and procedures that work for members and their clients alike.
  • ICOM has a history of serving international clients in multiple international markets in all product sectors.
  • ICOM is integrated with skills in all forms of commercial persuasion including public relations and
  • digital marketing.
  • ICOM has deep experience in Healthcare, Financial Services, Travel & Tourism, Automotive, Food, Retail and Telecommunications. 
  • ICOM members meet twice a year, once internationally and once regionally, to ensure that member agencies are not just strange names at the top of an email.
  • ICOM’s meetings keep members up to date on our fast-evolving business and build professional and personal relationships.
  • ICOM members help each other with new business because they know the stronger each member is the stronger the network is. 
  • ICOM is not burdened with a lot of overhead, bureaucracy or politics; we’re fast, flexible and friends. 

To find out more about the benefits of ICOM membership contact me.

Gary Burandt

Mobile: 1 720 261 4829

About Michael Gass

Consultant | Trainer | Author | Speaker

Since 2007, he has been pioneering the use of social media, inbound and content marketing strategies specifically for agency new business.

He is the founder of Fuel Lines Business Development, LLC, a firm which provides business development training and consulting services to advertising, digital, media and PR agencies.


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