Local vs London: The big agency debate!

With London and the Greater South East representing 54% of Creative Industries employment, 62% of businesses and 74% of economic output (DCMS), it’s no wonder the Local vs London question is being asked!

We recently attended a wonderful debate. Hosted by John Schumacher and George Vann, and with a charming panel – Emma Padwick, Jim Spencer, Fergus McCallum, Jon Butler – which was led by our very own Sue Benson! All things from remote working to the freelance-revolution were discussed as part of the long-standing debate around agency location in the marketing industry.

Does London have the upper hand?

It has been called the epicentre of creativity around Europe for as long as any of us can remember. London is home to the Royal College of Art, the number one art school in the world. As well as 14 leading universities specialising in creative subjects. 

There are approximately 816,000 Londerers working across the creative economy and the city still offers the largest pool of new jobs (Bloomberg). 

Based on the statistics, you’d probably think that they had the upper hand, right?

Well, maybe not..

In 2018, figures showed that 340,500 people left the big capital for other English regions. And this trend was further amplified by the pandemic. The post-pandemic population of London is now in decline for the first time in over 30 years, as Covid fundamentally changed the way we view cities. It has shown clients that working with an agency remotely can work really well and shifted the mentality from needing a London agency to wanting the best agency, no matter the miles.

Of course we don’t just mean Manchester when we say local – we are thinking of so many cities just like us, from Edinburgh to Exeter, and everybody in between. But with the heart of our business laying in Manchester, we are naturally drawn here.

The creative industry in Manchester is the fastest growing industry outside of London.  It is known to be the creative hub of the North and has more creative businesses, marketers and designers per square mile than any other northern city. It is also rich with creative initiatives and opportunity. With companies and networks such as Two+two, Agent Academy, School of Thought, Bootcamp and BIMA setting up and helping creatives grow within the region.

Time out named Manchester the 3rd best city in the world. Being a diverse and cosmopolitan city that’s lead for creative diversity, community spirit and work life balance. 

71% of respondents described the city as creative and adventurous.

It’s unsurprising that we perceive London the best – it’s part of the ‘bigger is better’ mentality – but this wonderful debate showed us things aren’t that black and white.

The most interesting takeaway?

That there really isn’t much to debate at all. The idea that London is a direct competitor to Manchester is a mindset we need to shift. Any UK city, not just London, provides opportunity for both clients and agencies in the creative world. And as a small country, unity is key

It’s also not just about geographic location anymore, it’s about the chemistry and bond between client and agency that really make the partnership thrive. And as an agency? We must put in the effort to get ourselves in a room with the client as often as we can, no matter where they are in the world!

We might be a little biassed, but we think the talent in Manchester is exceptional.

So, Local vs London, what are your thoughts on the big agency debate?