Wednesday, January 27, 2016

All hail the freelancer

Sometimes the grapevine bears some very interesting fruit.

For instance years ago, a friend of mine found himself in a resources meeting with many of the agency brass (in this case the emphasis is on ass). A big new project was rearing its head and the  powers that be were trying to determine staffing/freelance needs.

Being a good friend, he threw my name in the hat. To which one Peter-Principled, smarmy taskmaster replied...

"Oh no, we're not bringing in Siegel. Every time I see him all I hear is cash registers ringing."


In compliance with RoundSeventeen's strict no names policy I'm not naming names (though there's nothing in the policy about dropping clever little hints.) Suffice to say this anonymous fellow is to advertising what Sarah Palin is to the world of nuanced diplomacy.

Not only was the comment stupid. It was wrong.

Look, I'm no soothsayer, but I think we can all agree the ad industry is changing. And I'm gonna go out on a self-serving limb --because let's face it that's what soothsaying is all about -- and suggest the future and very survivability of our cherished business depends on the freelancer.

What would lead me to such a diagnosis? After all I'm not in the diagnosis business.

The current model of an ad agency with its long tables of bescarved, bepierced, and betattoed creatives is simply unsustainable. Particularly with the decline of AOR relationships and the advent of jump ball scenarios.

You see while it may be cost effective to fill the hallways of the creative department with newly minted college graduates, the truth is they're getting paid whether they're fecklessly stewarding billion dollar brands or just working on their sniping skills in the latest version of Call of Duty.

Freelancers, on the other hand, hit the ground running. You start the meter, they start the work.

And yes they might cost more, but only to the untrained eye.

Because before an agency pulls the trigger and brings in the mercenaries they go to the trouble of getting the brief signed. They make sure the assignment is buttoned up. That there is consensus. That deliverables are agreed upon. They will go out of their way to get the most value out of the money they're spending on freelancers by doing all the legwork in advance.

In other words, the agencies are operating at their most efficient.

Moreover, this has a push-pull effect on the clients. They're the ones footing the bill. And guess what happens? Clients start getting their shit together. They streamline approval processes. Clarify their thinking. And banish from the room anyone saying the following...

"I don't know why I don't like it, I just don't."

In other other words, they too are operating at their most efficient.

It's a win-win situation. And that's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. If this were a 273 page Powerpoint deck we'd only be at page 6. Other advantages to bringing in the hired guns? No healthcare costs. No melodrama. No paid vacations. Hell, you don't even have to feed freelancers.

The money saved from buying bagels alone would finance Martin Sorell's next yacht.

So you see unctuous unnamed "creative" executive who shall remain unnamed, you shouldn't shy away from hiring me or any other freelancer. You should pat us on the back and say, "Oh my, thank you for being here."


Théo said...

Freelancers who offer added value based on creativity and/or productivity can only succeed in an agency when they are brought in by someone with the insight to see their value and the power to protect them onsite. To everyone else in the room, the creative intruder has a commodity value of 1/4 of their day rate (if that). The conventional agency mindset values those in defined, titled positions of power based largely on social promotion, dues-paying and charisma. So the high-end freelancer is like a gleaming, scary robot on a manly, old-school production line. A freelancer is a curve wrecker, threatening cozy arrangements. Destroyer of job security, mortgages, private-school tuition, and marriages. The sudden appearance of a massively talented creative is a threat. It makes people think, "My kids may have to go to school with poor kids." In other words, it's a declaration of war.

Salty said...

I am such a wuss. I crave the steady paycheck. That's why I'm in at 7 every morning. Freelancing seems to be a far more rewarding way to work in advertising in that you become more of the mercenary. It feels like it changes the equation. Hours equals dollars. I have never been a good networker, so I guess if I ever get the opportunity to freelance (read that as: get sacked) I'll be up a rather smelly creek.