Thursday, March 22, 2012

Well Said, Lee Clow

We’ve all heard a lot of things over the years, but to hear that agencies get paid like they’re doing a client’s laundry, has to go up towards the top of the list.

But that's what Lee Clow said. See video here.

He also went on to say that it’s the agencys' fault for letting it happen. The problem, according to Mr Clow, is that agencies haven’t figured out how to be paid for the value of what they create.

“Somehow we’ve managed to commoditize what we do so that whatever agency gets hired for the lowest price they can negotiate with the purchasing agent, gets paid the same as the—I’d like to say—better agencies. There are more talented and less talented companies in our business, but somehow that has no role in the compensation formula.”

Well said, Lee Clow, well said.

A shorthand for this is the common lament that creative agencies spout, “Why can’t we be paid based on how good we are?”

Let’s be honest. Most agencies don’t want to be paid based on how good they are. Why? Because most aren’t very good.

Which mucks it up for the handful of good agencies that are there. Mr Clow’s, for example.

So how do we make creative less of a commodity?

Let's see, what is the immediate value of a creative idea? And remember that this immediate value must be able to be measured and monetized by the client.

First off, the idea needs to be expressed in some form. If that form of expression is a commercial, then perhaps there is a way that Mr Clow can have his cake and eat it too.

What it comes down to is view duration. Most advertisers will tell you that the longer a commercial is watched, the greater the creative value that commercial offers.

No, this doesn’t guarantee that if a commercial is watched all the way through that it will automatically lead to a sale. But I can say with some confidence that if a commercial isn’t watched, then a sale is less likely.

So can we all agree that watching a commercial can be considered a precursor to a sale occurring?

With viewer-initiated commercials, we can now measure how much of a commercial is consumed by a viewer. I would also argue that the process of keeping the viewer engaged is what could be refered to as creativity.

So would Mr Clow be willing to base part of his agency’s fee on his agency’s creativity, measured as view duration?

By the way, if an agency is to be paid this way—putting skin in the game—then the client needs to do something as well.

Once the idea is bought by the client, then the client backs off. No more riding shot-gun on production. No more saying cast this person or use that music or make my logo this much bigger.

Once the client says yes to the script, the agency has total control as to how best bring that script to fruition so more of it will be watched rather than less.

Knowing this, would Lee Clow now be willing to base part of his agency’s fee based on view duration?

As Mr Clow puts it, “We’re supposed to be a creative business, but I think we have been probably the least creative industry in the history of the world in terms of figuring out how to get paid.”


But now creative agencies like Mr Clow’s can put their creative where their mouth is. If people watch, they will get paid well. If not, they won't. Nor, should they be.

Failure will no longer be lucrative.

I think Mr Clow would say yes to this.

Others, I don't know. But let's find out.

The line forms here.

And, first up is…


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