Startups Face a Fierce Fight In Mid-Sized Agency Arena

BOSTON-Fledgling agencies have always faced stiff competition, and Hawley and Cauley Communications here will be sorely tested as it strives to build momentum within the New England advertising scene, agency executives said.
Heater Advertising in Boston, which opened its doors in 1994 and recently picked up lead creative duties on Reebok International, was the last startup to enjoy a breakthrough. However, that shop had Bill Heater’s name recognition and creative reputation to build on. Aside from Cauley’s battles with Houston Herstek Favat, Hawley and Cauley are virtual unknowns.
“They need to be able to meaningfully differentiate what they’re going to do,” advised Tom Simons, who has grown Partners & Simons in Boston over the past decade into a notable mid-sized player. “They need to be able to show that their approach will furnish value to clients.”
Gary Greenberg, co-founder of Boston-based Greenberg Seronick O’Leary & Partners, a mid-sized shop formed in 1983, said there is still room in the marketplace for a generalist agency with good creative ability. However, competition is especially fierce at the small and mid-sized agency level, with many shops battling for each $1-3 million piece of business, he said.
“It’s not necessarily a bad climate to start an agency in, but there could definitely be more business around. Maybe that’s a good climate to start in,” Greenberg said. “You can get your ducks in a row and decide who you are while there’s still a feeling of relative calm.”