KH pic for recession blog

It’s a recession. Do you use a big advertising agency or a small advertising agency?

A difficult question to answer, this. It depends how big your business is, and your personal preference.
There are merits to both large ad agencies and small ad agencies.

By having a large advertising agency service your business, you will likely have a team working on your account, so if one or more members of the team are unavailable at any time for whatever reason, there will always be someone you can talk to.

This may of course also be true of a small ad agency, although it depends on the size of the small agency.

There are of course other benefits to having a big agency. By having a team working on your account, you can have them brainstorm a variety of ideas. With a small agency – or really small agency – with likely only one creative team, this is not always possible.

Then, with a large agency, you will likely have access to different departments ie media, creative, research, production etc. With a small agency, certain of these functions would be outsourced.

If you’re an ABSA, FNB, Liberty Life, Discovery, Toyota, Nissan, BMW, Nandos, Famous Brands, Kelloggs or Clientele Life ie a big marketer with a sizeable advertising budget, you’ll likely have a number of agencies service your account. If yours is a small business, or a medium-sized business, your requirements will be simpler and would be better serviced by a smaller agency.

There are a number of really good small advertising agencies in Johannesburg and in many cases, they’re breakaways from larger agencies… by people who have served their time in the big agencies and who have tired of working for others.

(I know the feeling: after 5 or 6 years being a copywriter in a number of top ad agencies in Jhb, I had had enough of working evenings and weekends only to make others wealthy). A good 25 years later, I can look back at those years as an employee and count my blessings that I left when I did. I’ve had my own small ad agency, Kavonic Hone, for years now, working from home, and enjoying every minute of it.

Some of these breakaway agencies comprise seven or eight people, but they’re typically all experienced advertising folk, having cut their teeth in a multitude of discliplines. When I started on my own (together with my designer and art director), we had two or three staff and ran a tight ship. A few years later, my partner emigrated and I took stock of things: did I in fact want, or even need, staff?

Being a copywriter with an appreciation of good design and art direction, and with a decent business acumen, I decided I could do everything on my own – a realisation that saw me closing my offices and building an office at home.

Hence, the birth of This country’s smallest ad agency, Kavonic Hone.
All these years later, I’m still working from home. Doing my thing, servicing my clients hands-on, with no staff and no need for staff. I work closely with an experienced graphic designer and an experienced media strategist – and I’d have it no other way.

I have a close relationship with my clients, and they trust me to get things done. If a client has a requirement, he or she knows that I’ll be available either on my landline or my mobile, and that if a meeting is required, I’ll make myself available for whenever suits.

While I work unapologetically from home, other small agencies prefer an office environment.
Regardless, working from home, like myself, or a slightly bigger advertising agency working from an office, it’s all good – and as a small or medium-sized business in need of advertising, you’re sure to find a small ad agency that you’d be comfortable dealing with.

With a small or smaller agency, you can expect:

A better and higher level of service
Quicker turnarounds
Lower fees
Generally-speaking, as good a level of creativity as any large ad agency.

Clearly, not all small agencies are equal, and some will be stronger creatively than others and quicker on the uptake than others.

The most important thing is “fit”. The more comfortable you feel with the agency, the happier you’ll be.

Things are undeniably tough economically in South Africa right now, and advertisers – especially small advertisers – are looking for more buck from their advertising rands. The bigger marketers are not exempt: budgets are being cut and questions are being asked: are big agencies actually necessary? Can one not get better, or as good as, from a smaller agency?

If this is you, a small – and experienced – ad agency would be best suited to your needs.

It all starts with Google and googling “small ad agency Johannesburg” or “small advertising agency Jhb” – assuming you’re in Johannesburg of course..

Gerard Kavonic is a copywriter, conceptualiser of advertising ideas and co-ordinator of marketing projects. He resides in Johannesburg and aside from his interest and involvement in Bitcoin, runs This country’s smallest ad agency, Kavonic Hone. See He has been in the South African advertising industry for a good 30 years and during this time has won a number of awards for copywriting. He works on a full agency or ad hoc project basis and also offers a consulting service. He can be contacted on +27 83 444 9888 and His skype address is gerardkavonic.

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