Univeral Amplifier

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Boutique or Bust: Focused Media Strategies, Design and Development

Welcome to 2011! Many organizations are settling down to tackle the new year after a much needed break from 2010. I wanted to illuminate what Universal Information Services is seeing and hearing as a trend for public relations and the marketing industry.

Todd Murphy

Todd Murphy sitting

As many of you know, if you work in public relations, graphic design, media strategy, or web development, there has always been two camps. Those who work under the umbrella of a large agency, and those who focus on a single discipline. Agency vs. boutique is the question at hand, and how users of those groups now choose who they will award business to. This brings me to the trend we’re spotting. As of the 4th quarter of 2010, we’ve heard from and noticed more of our news monitoring and media analysis clients moving away from the large agency who managed all aspects of strategy, design and development, and moving towards smaller boutiques that specialize in a specific area.

Rather than have an account executive manage all the media and marketing needs, many companies are pulling that role in-house and choosing smaller, cutting edge companies to create their website, their social media strategy, or even to recreate their brand. At the same time we’ve also noticed more hiring at the agency level to add these specialized people, presumably to retain their clients in the face of a trend away from agencies. Is the agency dead, not at all. In fact, as of the new year we’ve seen many of the larger agencies realize that there are great creative resources that reside outside of their walls, so even the agency can benefit from an outsourced solution from a boutique.

It seems 2011 may be a great year for the design and development boutiques who represent #newtools, yet can work within the fundamental #samerules of corporate industry and the large agency model. The boutiques that capitalize on this trend will only do well if they excel within their discipline. This does not appear to be the time to attempt to be a “jack of all trades”, but to stay focused on what you do best. What has attracted corporations to working directly with boutiques? According to what I’ve been told, it is the closer contact and conveyance of ideas this affords them. One complaint about the large agency model has been by the time an account executive relayed the needs of the client to the right department within the agency, and that department drafted ideas, and then they all met with the client, the original idea would have mutated beyond what the client wanted. We’ll call this problem “concept drift”. But, go direct to a boutique for your web design, and another for your graphic design, and you can directly convey what it is you want…then in many cases have those two, or more, boutiques work together to make it happen.

Yes, coordination of separate vendors can be a problem, but it seems that “fast” companies are overcoming this issue. Two years ago I would have agreed that this is the reason that most smaller boutiques remain small. But with the new collaborative tools that the web and social media affords all of us, the problem of coordination has been reduced (see 37signals for ideas). Universal Information Services has re-branded with new graphics, printed collateral, a website, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Linkedin…just to name a few of our tools. Below is a list of a few boutiques we’ve chosen for their quality of work and accuracy in bringing our concepts to life…more accurately and more quickly.

What-Cheer for web design
Emspace Group for graphic design
Contemporary Analysis for SEO/SEM
Elman & Company for printed materials
T3DDYstudios for Youtube Channel design (pending project)

What’s really cool is that those who are truly creative now have access to the types of clients they deserve. The same benefit is also available to agencies in that they can outsource to these uber-creative boutiques, or offer them the money they are worth to come work in-house at the agency. But all buyers must beware. As Scott Bishop discussed in a recent blog, 6 Social Media Marketing Lies You Keep Telling Yourself, just because you have the #newtools checked off and in place, doesn’t mean you’ll be successful. Human nature, compelling content, a real strategy and definitive goals are necessary no matter who you choose to do your work…yes, many of the #samerules will always apply.


3 Comments on “Boutique or Bust: Focused Media Strategies, Design and Development”

  1. 1 Susan Baird said at 5:00 pm on January 12th, 2011:

    Great review of the shifting paradigms, Todd! It seems to me that those who survive will be the agile ones who can adjust most quickly to the ever-changing #newtools, implement them with the wisdom of many of the #samerules, and most importantly, communicate clearly and confidently with clients in order to manage their expectations and continue to reinforce value. Thanks for always making me think, and especially for reminding us that it’s not an us (boutique) vs. them (agency) environment despite what the pundits say.

  2. 2 Todd Murphy said at 5:24 pm on January 12th, 2011:

    Susan: Great comments and I’m glad you see the root of my post. Too often this industry has been adversarial with the some agencies trying to push the boutiques out of the big jobs. By the same token, some boutiques are guilty of carrying a chip on their shoulder towards the quality of work that can come from an agency. There ARE new rules to how we conduct business, and they include working together and/or specializing. Coopetition (cooperating, yet being competitors to some extent) is good. It is OK to get over ourselves and find ways to benefit each other in winning business. Thanks for the comments!

  3. 3 Tweets that mention Big PR Agency Approach vesus Combined Design Boutiques | Universal Information Services, Inc -- Topsy.com said at 7:30 pm on January 13th, 2011:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Todd Murphy, maizie45, Universal Info Srvcs, Chad Arens and others. Chad Arens said: RT @Universal_Info: New Post #samerules #newtools: http://me.lt/7JtA Rise of the design/development Boutiques. […]

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