It was a high-level meeting. In attendance from the client side, the three C’s—CEO, CMO and CFO. Across the table, from the agency side, sat the president and the Executive Creative Director.
Five people. Small. Intimate. The size a meeting should be if things stand a chance of getting done.
The topic of discussion centered around two “C” words—compensation and creative.
The CEO requested the meeting after reading the recent ANA survey on accountability between agencies and marketers. Or, lack thereof.
He led off with what I found to be a surprising statement. “Let’s be clear,” he said to the president. “I want nothing more than for your agency to make an enormous amount of money.”
You could see the president of the agency visibly relax. Usually, meetings regarding compensation, start off on a much less positive note.
“That said,” the CEO continued, “I need you to earn it. Not through the amount of effort that you expend. I truly have no interest in how hard you work. Where my interest lies is in how well your work ends up working for me.”
“You’re talking about sales,” the agency president nodded, in anticipation of the answer.
“No,” the CMO interjected. “I’m accountable for sales. What we’re talking about is something that we’re calling “Creative 3.0.”
For the first time, the Executive Creative Director looked awake. “Creative 3.0?” he said. “Excellent. You know, we’ve been meaning to talk to you about gaming.”
The CFO, strictly an observer until now, shook his head. “Creative 3.0 isn’t about the type of creative that you do. Rather, it’s about how you’re paid for it.”
“There seems to be two schools of thought floating around,” said the CMO. “The first is that we continue to attempt to aggregate eyeballs. This is our media agency’s answer. But with the fragmentation of the audience and the addressable targeting techniques now available, we feel that’s a losing proposition. The second is to accept the fact that the digital marketplace is less about how many people see your messaging and more about how much time they spend with your messaging.”
“We feel,” added the CEO, “that the more time consumers spend with our brand, the more likely they are to buy our product. It’s a theory, granted. But one that we’re willing to invest in.”
“Which means,” the CFO joined in, “we’d like to pay you in direct correlation to how well you involve viewers in the messages that you make for us.”
“Obviously,” the CMO interjected, “we’re only talking about the video messaging that you create and that we run on digital platforms. The view duration metrics that we’re already accumulating let us know how well the work is working at holding viewers’ interest and attention.”
“Well, if that’s the case, it certainly sounds like gaming would be the way to go,” the ECD said, hopefully.
“Yes, it could be a game,” the CMO replied. “But most likely, not. Don’t forget that you’re in the persuasion business. A lot of agencies have started to believe that presence, putting the product in a game, for instance, is the new persuasion. We’re not buying that. We hired you to create involving stories about our brand that persuade people to consider our product. That’s what you’re good at. We thought you’d be happy if we paid you based on what you’re good at.”
“But persuasion isn’t, well, it isn’t exactly easy. Especially in thirty seconds,” said the ECD.
“Yes, we know,” was the CMO’s reply. “The good news is that, on the digital platform, you can take as long as you want to persuade someone.”
“So, we could take like three to four minutes?” asked the president.
“Absolutely,” replied the CFO. “But please remember that part of your pay will be contingent on how well you maintain a viewer’s interest for those three to four minutes.”
“If you do maintain interest,” said the CEO, “and, as I mentioned at the start of this meeting, we will pay you very well indeed. If you don’t, well…we receive little value, hence you receive little value.”
“Ouch,” said the agency president.
“Welcome to the new world of digital realities,” said the CFO.
“In essence, you want to pay us based on how good we are at involving viewers in our stories,” said the ECD.
“And if sales don’t go up?” inquired the president.
“If you have come up with what we all feel is a persuasive story, and we then let you create it in the way that you feel it should be done, and the data says that people did indeed watch it, then you’ve done what we’re paying you to do. Sales are not your responsibility anymore,” said the CMO. “They’re mine.”
“Creative 3.0 is about paying for your creative efforts based on viewer time-spent with your creative outcome,” said the CFO.
“You realize that it’s going to change the way that we create what we create,” said the ECD.
“We certainly hope so,” said the CMO. “The digital platform needs new ad models and new thinking. By changing the way you’re compensated, we’re hoping to change the way that you approach the platform.”
“Which,” added the CEO, “is better than changing agencies. Wouldn’t you agree?”
“Oh, yes,” said the agency president. “Oh, yes.”