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Whatever happened to Creative Independents?

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Back in the 1990's we had a big recession in the UK. It was bad times. Lots of agencies were hit and many people lost their jobs. As usual with this industry, quite a few talented creative folk found themselves out of work.

But out of adversity comes opportunity and a few of these creative people got together to discuss the situation. They soon realised they were all thinking about the same thing; how to get back to earning the substantial salaries they were making without returning to the uncertainty of working for a traditional agency.

So they started thinking differently and came up with a fresh idea. They planned to set up their own businesses, but not in the usual creative freelance sort of way. What they wanted to do was set up a business in a proper agency sort of way with direct business from big clients and nice big juicy budgets.

The little creative agencies they were planning to launch would give clients an alternative option. For the first time, clients could have direct access to the ideas people. They could cut down on the fat and simply pay for the one key ingredient they required  the creative work.

Of course these little creative shops needed to be seen as legitimate alternatives to traditional agencies. They needed proper offices, proper stationery, proper desks, proper chairs and proper expense accounts. You see, they couldn't be seen as just another freelance creative team. They needed to create a totally different impression.

The creatives called their agencies 'Creative Independents' and spread the word to other out of work creative people that this was the way forward. Meetings were held and many more creative teams pledged to join in. In fact, at launch Campaign magazine announced that the Association of Creative Independents would have 30 companies in its founding membership.

Campaign also revealed that the Association would also have its own code of practice. A practice that was in place to reassure clients of the professional standards of members and ban ACI members from 'stealing' client business from agencies that employ them.

The idea was sound. All the boxes were ticked. A new way for creative people to earn a living was on the horizon. And yet, in just 3 years, the Association of Creative Independents had all but disappeared. The whole thing was back to square one. And the creative people were on the phones taking on traditional agency freelance work again.

So where did it all go wrong? Where was the flaw in the idea? Er, well, it seems that the creative people simply became too busy to establish the association.

Or put that another way  they got bored and lost interest.

I guess you could say that setting up this kind of thing is not really what creative people do.


Read the Campaign story here.

John Fountain is senior writer at Avvio

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