Agency Creative Structures Need to Change

We’ve long thought the agency business needed an overhaul in favor of more and better creativity. The industry now has the technical tools to target messages to the correct consumers, and the video formats (such as our inArticle video) to produce higher viewing and completion rates. On the workflow side, we’re pretty streamlined. But nothing would raise completion rates as much as standout creative.

Most agencies know this, and have figured out ways to re-combine teams for specific clients. But that might not be good enough. It might be time for agencies to do more than just use existing teams in different ways, especially since agency life has such churn anyway.

We think the entire model of internal teams is outdated, and that creative teams should consist of the best people both inside and outside an agency. This may mean forming an agency entirely out of a network of free agents on call for specific assignments. Some small boutique agencies already do this: their corporate staff is mainly account executives, finance people, and media buyers, and their creative is almost completely outsourced.

Grace Caffyn’s recent article about how the Grey Agency in London has reorganized its offices to provide more unstructured space and changed its recruiting policies so it can look at outside candidates informally at office parties before it’s time to make a hire shows some of the differences. And there are perks at Grey that used to be available only at tech companies, such as ” free beauty treatments and weekly treats, which range from bacon sandwiches to fruit smoothies. There’s also a cafe-bar downstairs that serves free drinks from 6 to 9 p.m. every Thursday.”

Apparently, the Grey Agency’s London office is taking its inspiration from Pixar, whose president, Ed Catmull, has written a book about his experiences called “Creativity, Inc.”

However, there’s only so far you can go with existing staff, because sooner or later they begin to reflect the culture of the agency, which may not be the culture of the world outside. Although agencies complain about churn, we suspect that churn is actually the salvation of agencies, because it allows them to take in new talent.

Agencies, go further: reach out to people who may want to remain independent and pull them in on specific projects where you know they can shine. Partner more often, collaborate more often, especially on the creative side.