Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Pay-what-you-want is currently one of my favorite trends to watch. I've posted about it before, and recently came across Agencynil - the pay-what-you want advertising agency. As this is an industry I take a lot of interest in (it keeps me employed) I really looked at this one closely. From a PR perspective it has done a great job of generating buzz. As far as output is concerned, I think the jury may still be out on this one, but according to the site it is a satisfaction guaranteed delivery - so if anything they are confident.

This got me thinking about a few points:
  1. When does a company not pay what they want from their ad agency? As with many transactions, when one feels that there is something unfair about the value/price relationship one ends the relationship. Most companies request work for a fee and agencies deliver under that premise. Rarely are agencies in a position to dictate price. Which brings me to my next point...
  2. This positioning also assumes that ad agencies charge what they want.An agency can only pay its bills when a client is happy. Clients that feel ripped off won't swallow whatever their agency feels it deserves. Likewise, a client rarely pays a premium for work that delivers on a remarkable success. Maybe there's a balance...but that's a different post.
  3. Client happiness should not to be confused with client success. These two could not be further apart and have no linear correlation. Happier clients do not equal more successful clients. Great agencies can succeed by shifting focus away from happy clients towards helping clients succeed - but this runs deeper than churning out work or jumping on the latest new media bandwagon. It involves serious relationships that don't crumble under conflict and scrutiny of each party. Remarkable success comes from challenging the status quo. This causes friction as it is the status quo (either in work, in a clients culture, or in a agency/client relationship) which creates comfort and mutual happiness - but rarely sustained success. If you are a company, look for an agency that makes you feel uncomfortable, that will tell you where they think you fall and where you can do the same. It will help everyone.
The pay-what-you-want strategy is another great marketing tool. To think that in this case it lies on some deep rooted thought around fairness or market laws may be more marketing than logic. It simply addresses the eternal skepticism that an organizations has against its agency. A grass is greener strategy that may not transfer well to the perception of professional service. I'm sure there is a market for this, but it may compete more with organized online freelancers, online banks of creative work and graphic designers.

If you've experienced the agency or been involved with the work I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Lessons from a crazy dancer

I love this video. It reflects a great lesson in marketing...

I'm sure that at some point, we've all looked like that guy dancing on his own. For whatever reason, we decided to take a step against the standard around us. When this happens it is hard to feel anything but foolish.

For example, let's say we had decided to implement a new media strategy. Something driven by what people enjoy, and something connected by what they like to share. Excited we take the leap and make our strategy a reality. We've flown out of the gate only to realize that we're completely exposed to everyone else. Now we're not quite as comfortable. The worst part about this is that for a while it feels like we'll always be it - that guy dancing alone at a concert. It is at this point that most brands give up. They've been dancing in a new strategy or social media space and the initial momentum has worn off - they're feeling insecure. They're starting to doubt if this whole strategy thing is going to work. Everyone's looking at them but no one is really joining in. For most brands (currently) that's enough. They've made their point. They've proven they weren't afraid to try. Another successful stunt that held the attention of a few thousand eyeballs and 'engaged the audience'.

Meanwhile, a smaller portion of brands (let's call them the Few Brands) will stick it out long enough to reach another level of 'engagement'. The Few Brands will have the reward of being noticed plus have the experience of being mocked. Much like the second guy who joined our wild man dancer in the video, another brand will try to pick-up on the attention the Few Brands are generating. For those copy-cats the visual impact will be less - their intention is misplace. It reflects a strategy based on brand insecurities or laziness.

Then there is the last segment of brands who will realize the most success for their patience and efforts. The Successful Brand sets out knowing it may look foolish, but is equipped with the strategic depth to ignore (or even encourage) those that mock/tag along to the idea. The Successful Brand will finally encourage that third person to join in. That third person represents the key audience the Successful Brand requires to break down the barrier between 'audience engagement' (those who watch) and 'audience participation' (those who join). Soon after that audience joins, the momentum carries itself. No longer needing the original brand presentation, these people define their interaction with each other and their own enjoyment as projections of the Successful Brand's original action. The people no longer notice the awkward foolish looking dancer. Instead they embrace the intention and experience the Successful Brand has initiated. In the end, it is the memory of that experience that will be tied to the brand: The experience being synonymous with what that Successful Brand means to the people it has connected to each other.
Hat Tip: Martin Delaney

UPDATE JUNE 10: Read Seth Godin's take on the video