Independent vs. Owned

After going on agency tours in New York City, I have been thinking about the differences between independent PR agencies and agencies owned by holding companies.  What are the benefits of each?  Do I have a preference of which type of agency I would like to work at?

Employees at independent agencies talk a lot about the benefits of working for an independent agency during these harsh economic times.  They say that they called their own shots.  They were not told how many people they had to lay off to maintain profits by the larger holding companies.  They were able to give holiday bonuses.  They were able to keep up high morale by their independence.  And they also have other independent agencies to connect with for networking purposes but not for decision making purposes.

As for agencies owned by holding companies, we have WPP,Omnicom, and IPG as three of the largest communications holding companies in the world.  What are the benefits for them?  They have a strong network of agencies to communicate with (or compete with in some cases.  Apparently, it is even more exciting when you beat out a sister company for a client!).  When things are tough, they have a parent company to step in and help them out.  With some of the top communications practitioners in the world, there is always someone to connect with for help in a certain specialty.

So when you are choosing a job, does it matter to you if the agency is independent or owned?  Is this something you think about before you apply to a job?  I can honestly say this decision did not enter my mind until I went on agency tours and heard both sides brag about the benefits of being independent or owned.  What are your thoughts?

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