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Jack of All Trades: Why the classic agency model needs fixing

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The traditional agency model used to work.

An agency builds a team of trained and dedicated full-time 'creatives.' A client brief lands, a team of in-house talent is assembled, and tasks are assigned. The work is delivered and the time billed — all creative output, all billable hours, kept completely in-house. 

It was safe. It was secure. It was scalable. But in the wake of explosive new trends and technologies, channels and formats, the safety of this self-contained approach is beginning to leave agencies lagging behind.

 

New Game, New Game Plan

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Forget the divide between print and digital. Today’s creative landscape is made up of a diverse range of disciplines across a dizzying array of platforms. Design, illustration, photography, film, animation, motion graphics, CGI, VR, AR, apps, experiential… the list goes on. Annnnnd on.

No agency can claim to be an expert in all these things and whatever comes next. Not without running the risk of invoking the tired old adage: ‘Jack of all trades, master of none.’ 

Creativity takes more forms now than ever before, and a stubborn adherence to a fully in-house philosophy could well be the quickest way to ensure an agency’s irrelevance and obsolescence in 2018. (Sorry, Jack.)

 

Dip into the £20billion Pool

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The (worst kept) secret to avoiding the scrapheap of irrelevance lies in harnessing the power of freelancers, a worldwide resource of creatives who now contribute more than £20billion to the UK creative economy each year.

This ever changing, ever renewing talent pool of millions has the potential to augment agencies’ core services with new skills, disciplines and specialisms, hand-picked on a brief-by-brief basis to form the perfect team, assembled specifically for the job at hand.

 

"As the world of marketing technology grows and specialises, client organisations are going to need the help of specialists. Not every brand can justify a permanent Head of Oculus Rift."

Leo Rayman, head of planning at Grey London

 

Freelancers Are Fighters

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Freelancers thrive because competition is healthy. Innovation and graft are rewarded over years of service, and hungry (that’s metaphorically, and sometimes quite literally hungry) freelancers will adapt to survive; they fight for their work, they either evolve or they’re replaced.

Throwing this energy in the mix has the potential to inject new and unconventional thinking into projects, to remedy the staleness of safety, the same old boring creative thought patterns, that can be the slow poison at the heart of complacent agencies.

 

But You Can't Be Relied On

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The reason agencies and brands are reluctant to favour freelancers over in-house talent, in spite of this? Freelancers just aren’t reliable… I know, I know - you’re a freelancer and you’re super reliable. But you’re not an employee.

Agencies don’t own you, and you have no obligation to drop everything and put your energy into their project. There’s a chance you chose to freelance in the first place for a taste of the fabled ‘work-life balance.’

You might even be an agency’s favourite freelancer, but if you're as good as they think you are you’re probably booked up until Christmas. Agencies managing a network of trusted freelancers, to ensure they always have someone on speed dial, is a job in itself.

Plus, let’s face it — you cost more. No zero hour contracts or contracted overtime when you have no contract, right? In-house teams will always be cheaper, and less energy to manage. And therein lies the problem.

 

Creativity Through Collaboration

As shudder-inducingly cliché as it sounds, the solution: working together.

Assembling collaborative teams and networks of freelance talent to work together offers brands and agencies all the benefits of the global freelance pool, with a sprinkling of agency mentality and reliability. Just check out Creativepool’s “hand-selected” StudioGigs collective and “curated” StudioCrowd community as perfect examples. 

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We see the future in collaboration. 

We’re a creative production studio — not a full-service agency but a collective of artists who win awards for our photorealistic CGI — what we do is niche, but our little studio collaborates with world-renowned agencies and global brands. Add our specialist skill set to an agency’s reputation and ability to take risks, and the sum is always greater than the parts.

Collaborating with studios like Bomper means instant access to a collective of experts in a specialist field. Agencies can tap into a shared passion for a craft, unique perspectives, reliability and security, and a team’s combined experience (of the industry, and of working together.)

Freelancers tacked onto in-house teams aren’t nearly as effective as a dedicated team who can offer a specialist modeller, a sculptor, a texturer, an animator, a lighting specialist, and a post-production expert – all under one roof, a studio Creative Director, and a single price tag. That’s our motivation, and it’s what we passionately feel the future holds for agencies.

We know we’re not alone in this passion. The agency model isn’t broken, it just needs more collaboration. With freelance teams, with specialist studios, with communities like Creativepool. 

 

So… who wants to collaborate?

 

 

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