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Putting your money where your mouth is

By V. Subramaniam (Subbu)

(Image courtesy: kayveeinc)

The woman was silent for some time. Then she again took his hands and studied them carefully.

“I’m not going to charge you anything now,” she said. “But I want one-tenth of the treasure, if you find it.”

The boy laughed – out of happiness. He was going to be able to save the little money he had because of a dream about hidden treasure!

“Well, interpret the dream,” he said.

“First, swear to me. Swear that you will give me one-tenth of your treasure in exchange for what I am going to tell you.”

The shepherd swore that he would.

“It’s a dream in the language of the world,” she said. “I can interpret it, but the interpretation is very difficult. That’s why I feel that I deserve a part of what you find.”

This is a dialogue from Paulo Coelho’s amazing book ‘The Alchemist’.

The above dialogue can also be allegorical with the shepherd boy representative of a client and the fortune-teller, an agency. Bingo, you get an interesting remuneration model for the agency.

Like the fortune-teller, agencies actions impact the future. These actions are ideas for which agencies expect clients to cough up the dough. And great ideas are not easy to sell. They defy norms and as far as the client is concerned, fraught with uncertainty. Under such circumstances, clients normally tend to play it safe leading to disappointing results and frustration within the agency team.

What if the agency, like the fortune-teller, decides to work for free with a clear understanding that their idea sees the light of day and that they get a share of future profits? This is about putting their money where their mouth is. This display of confidence on the idea can be infectious and hopefully sway the client in favour of the idea.

I am not saying anything new. In an earlier post I had mentioned the famous case of Anomaly and Lauren Luke. In India, my good friend Ramesh has experienced success with a similar approach. It is a workable model for the growing number of independent creative shops across the world. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain - from releasing ‘cutting edge’ work to hopefully making inroads into large agencies businesses.

Large agencies will not be able to do this. They are under the strangle-hold of the bean counters and have a lot to lose. In any case they have already lost something precious .Their guts.


V. Subramaniam (Subbu)

When people ask me what I do, I drop in words like experiment, creative, strategy, technology and intersection. I surely don't know what it means. If you have figured it out, do let me know. I am not complaining though, as I have done some interesting projects for Wipro Technologies and continue to do so for equally interesting clients like Nu Street Technologies, 3dSoc and so on.

In my previous avatar I was an adman, marketing bloke and brand specialist. It so happened that agencies like Ogilvy and JWT were foolish enough to let me handle all kinds of brands - from large ones like Unilever, BP to small local brands. I stumbled into the world of marketing during the internet (dotcom) boom days. If you have reached here, you must be surely curious about me. Why don’t you drop in a line?

**Subbu writes blog regularly at

***Views Expressed here are personal. The writer can be reached at

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