Here’s a theory I’ve been kicking around for a while: you don’t really need an advertising agency.
Now a lot of people will argue this point – most of them will be people who work in agencies and a few of them will be probably friends and colleagues of mine – but indulge me for a moment before you light your torches and rampage through the village, shaking your pitchforks and shovels…
You see, when it comes to ad-agencies you’re not just paying for the creative work.
You’re paying for the running costs of that big shiny building, those delighful sushi lunches, that lovely leather couch in the Art Director’s office, the impressive boardroom with the trendy bottles of water, the huge neon sign outside, their award-submission fees and the Creative Director’s flashy new German luxury car.
Those are the trappings of the BDA ( that means “Big Dumb Agency” – a term I’ve borrowed from the inimitable George Parker) – and they’re necessary because of the legacy of the banking-fiction: you’re handing over a truckload of money to these people so you need to know A) that they’re successful and B) that they’re not going disappear any time soon. That’s why banks have such huge buildings on main streets; to convince you that they’re there to stay. And as we’ve learned this decade, those big buildings don’t mean squat.
So why not cut out the distributor and go straight to the source? Why not find yourself a copywriter and an art-director (they usually come as a set) who will dedicate their time to your brand? There are plenty of good ones around who are more concerned about doing what’s best for you as opposed to how milk a statuette out of doing work for you.
The thing about independent creatives is that they need you. Actually, they REALLY need your money. Sure, an agency needs your money too, but independents don’t draw salaries. It’s pay-for-play. And good independents have strong networks so should you ever need a strategist, a PR officer, website-coder or whatever, chances are your creative team be able to recommend one… all on a pay-as-you-go basis, of course.
Best of all, you’ll know who’s responsible for your creative work. There are agencies out there who will send their senior people to meet you and then foist your work onto some poor junior writer/designer who has no clue about you or your brand – and has to decipher the scope of work from some broken-telephone brief; that whole tenuous client-suit-PA-traffic-creative chain of communication…
Yes, there are chancers. Funnily enough, there are chancers in big ad-agencies too…no, really. But if you get it right, you’ll have your own personal agency, a team of people you can trust to deliver the work you want, when you want it – and chances are you’ll get what you’re paying for: excellent creative work. And when you get bored with them or you want to change it up, you can trade them in – usually with a shorter notice period than your agency.
So there you have it. A theory.
Ok…does everyone have their pitchforks? Splendid. You may begin the vilification…