Creative boutiques have long been an important part of the advertising industry. The competieive advantage for boutiques has always been their ability to turn out inventive creative work quickly, without the cumbersome bureaucracy and politics of larger agencies. Large and small shops coexisted successfully because boutiques usually pursued smaller accounts than large agencies were interested in. And even as the agency business was reshaped by consolidation and the creation of large mega-agencies that now dominate the industry, creative boutiques were riding high on the dot-com boom of the late 90s that provided a boost in billings, profile, and morale for small shops. However, the dot-com wave crashed even faster than it appeared, and then came the terrorist attacks of September 11. which were followed by the warst advertising recession in decades.
Today's creative boutiques are facing major challenges, and many are struggling to identify and differentiate themselves and attract clients.
They find themselves competing against the larger agencies for accounts that would have beed passed over by top-tier shops during better economic times. Moreover, selling the creativity of a boutique's qork is not enough, as many clients want the range of services that larger agencies provide. Creative waork does not capture the imagination of the industry the way it used to, as marketers are looking for business-building ideas rather than creative home runs. As the new business director at a large New York agency notes :"Boutiques can't compete in terms of offering inetrgrated solutions, and don't have the resources to mount serious pitches for even the smaller pieces of business that might go to a mid-size agency. They will be forever mired in project work."
Despite these obstacles, there are still those brave of foolhardy enough to believe that with a dollar and a dream they can open their own...