Recent events in the idea crowdsourcing world herald a new business model for agencies. As the person responsible for putting Peperami on the internet in the first place (peperami.com 1996 for the historians amongst you) I’m well placed to comment on the recent move to find ideas using the internet. And as Jon Winsor and other (about to be ex-Crispin Porter) colleagues have announced in the early hours of this morning, it’s time for a new model that takes crowdsourcing to the next level. And that involves asking you, the creatives out there working for other agencies, to contribute to their briefs. Transparently. And at your risk.
Are you up for it? Is it the end of the agency model as we know it? Everyone seems to agree that there is an enormous challenge in the agency group mentality of silo and sausage factory. We make our money in the wrong way, from downstream process transaction rather than from upstream advisory. We fight with each other constantly over budgets. We don’t have enough people to handle the workload when we’re busy. Or we have plenty of the wrong people who can’t handle the workload because the work has changed.
Is the problem about size? The bigger an agency gets, it moves from selling ideas to selling meetings. This seemed fine, as clients have diverse needs and there are a myriad of ways to find service levels for those needs. The creativity of agencies moved into describing cross selling. to build scale and business relationships. And the creativity that clients actually want from them, ideas for better ways to engage consumers to sell more of their products and services tended to be a delegated and downstream service. Ideas became lone wolves that had to be ‘fought for’ by the creative department, instead of exciting ‘cool’ product developments that galvanise everybody involved.
Now there’s an answer. A new model where brands owners can publicly describe their problem, and can garner public responses. There’s been a few start ups that endeavour to capture this trend – idea bounty and so on, about which the naysayers claim they can’t make money, they are estate agents for ideas, isn’t it just like freelancing and so on. Well it does reflect all those things, accusations very easily levelled at any agency by the way, but the difference is that the ability to share and re-share briefs and answers quickly though the internet brings agility where previously there was treacle.
As Stuart Elliot put in in the New York Times – agencies should stop worrying about selling the status quo and start being a force for change. A ‘catalyst of record’, not an ‘agency of record’ Love that. And believe that too. I worked on a pitch last year where the client invited five agencies to test drive their cars and pitch for their business. It was an expensive and overwrought process, on everybody’s part. As we were hanging around having coffee, I said to one or two of the opposition – you know what, this is silly. They should just hire you, me, her and him. Each from a different agency – a ‘dream team’ as they say, as between us we’d provide the best answers, the best work, and it would be a laugh. Everyone agreed that it would be, but went home to prepare for the pitch battle in their own P&Ls.
I wish Jon and crew luck with their new venture. Watch that space!