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.