The Word Rabbit


This article was written on 17 May 2017, and is filled under Uncategorised.

Creative agencies are a massive load of horsewank

If you want to see Capitalism 101 teaching a few, hard lessons, just spend time with any creative agency. Not that it matters what sort of creativity they are involved with, from copywriting to digital or a mixture of the two, because what you really want to pay attention to are the job titles. There will, for instance, be a couple of CEOs or owners, some people with the word strategy in their truncated work titles and, finally, an awful lot of account directors. You may wonder where the actual creatives are, the people who actually make the things that the agency’s website talks about in great and glowing detail. Well, that’s easy. They’re all freelance.

Where this is significant is that the people who have the job security and the large salaries, along with, of course, the fancy job titles don’t have a creative bone in their bodies. If they couldn’t get freelancers to work for them, they’d be out of work before the day ended, their marketingspeak and mindless buzzwords rendered empty and hollow by the fact that they had nothing to show anyone and to talk up or, more importantly, to twine the thinnest of justifications for existence around. You’re showing the client something that someone else designed. So why are you here?

Nobody knows, but then that’s never been an argument for changing the way things are done. If you were to find a creative agency where there were no account directors, then put your business with them, because you’ve finally found honest people. You’re not paying, when you settle your invoice, for people you’ll never see and whose jobs you don’t understand, and if you’ve gone with a much smaller agency, it’s also unlikely that you’ll be paying the ground rent on that swanky office where they gave you nice biscuits and blew smoke up your arse.

The freelancers, who toil unseen, will receive a fraction of that cash because conventional wisdom, and here’s the paradox, value the actual creativity less than the ability to present it. If you can build a website, that’s fine. Have a fiver. But if you can talk about the website that someone else has built, then you can name your price. Funny, isn’t it?

I’ve worked with numerous account managers before, and they were all utterly useless. Their view of their job was that they passed along, directly to you, the creative, what the client had said. And when you responded, they mangled your reply. In meetings, where you robustly defended the work that you had done, they worked out which way the wind was going and quickly sided with the client, so that you’d find yourself going home in a stony silence because you were wondering how long a sentence you’d get for pulling out their eyes and stamping on them.

And this is to say nothing of the supposed ‘creative directors;’ I worked under. The one I’m thinking of in particular, whose sole qualification was that he had worked on a men’s magazine, knew nothing about the client and less about the brief, but sat there in an office, running his fat little hands over work that the creative team had done and airily expressing opinions about it as though it was something that he could have created if only he’d had the time in between stuffing food into his fat head. And the kicker? The client was paying his salary. They were paying his to sit there and rock back in his chair, just as they were paying the troupe of fuckwit account managers to walk around like people who knew what they were doing with sticks jammed up their arses, but who were drowning in their own stupidity.

Here’s how a pitch works, a pitch that uses all the most expensive people I’ve just talked about. Ready? You’ll meet with some very well paid people with impressive-sounding titles, but none will be a creative. They will listen to your concerns. And then they will repeat them back at you, which sounds like wisdom, but is, in fact, what you’ve just said coming back at you like a garbled echo. They will then go away, and brief some freelancers who are getting a fraction of the money, who will come up with a creative response which is presented back to you by these expensive people. So you sign a contract and expect you’ll see them again. Wrong.

The expensive people have moved on to shake down the next client. You’ve been passed on to a team who are less convincing and significantly less talented, but who might have access to the same freelances, if you’re lucky, although you’ll be paying them as if they were still the expensive people you met first time round. You have been had, and you will be brutally done over for the remainder of your working relationship until your budget runs out and they stop work, leaving it half-finished and executed with a breathtaking level of incompetence. I’ve seen this happen with two ‘reputable’ and really quite large agencies and will happily share their names.

Instead of going through this pantomime, instead of doing Capitalism 101 and instead of giving the expensive people your money, assemble or find a small team of freelancers and get them to do the work. The advantage is that you’ll be communicating directly with the people who do the job, instead of talking to an account manager who will relay your messages like a trained monkey, albeit getting some of the key information wrong, and you won’t be forking over a king’s ransom so some prick can drive around in a BMW. Also, you’re much more likely to get work that responds directly to your needs and which echoes your concerns more directly, and as you’re the one doing the actual commissioning, then you probably know your business better than some idiot in £200 shoes.

Read this, pass it on and think about it, because it’s possible, just possible that the advice here will save you a lot of money and tears. And if someone comes into your life with a job title like ‘Senior Brand Director,’ ask them what they do, end their explanation about a minute in and tell them to get to fuck. You’ll thank me for it.

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