Insiders, out. Outsiders, in

Soumitra Karnik, an independent creative consultant, writes that the agencies that once prided themselves on cultivating exceptional talent and nurturing lasting client relationships now resort to tapping into the gig economy, seemingly oblivious to the potential repercussions

BestMediaInfo Bureau
New Update
Insiders, out. Outsiders, in

Soumitra Karnik

I had to share this: I recently came across a post by a prominent agency looking to hire an Associate Creative Director (ACD). Nothing surprising there, but one word, innocently placed within brackets next to ACD, raised my eyebrows - "freelancer." I re-read. A large network agency had indeed posted a recruitment request for the job of Associate Creative Director (freelance).

Cannot help but wonder if this individual will lead a motley crew of freelancers or a team of permanent employees. This kind of arrangement reminds me of the emotionally detached cuckoos that lay eggs in the nests of other birds and do not raise their own young. As for those who are devising such hiring strategies, have they gone cuckoo too?

This announcement struck me as both ludicrous and disheartening, a harbinger of the dwindling commitment of agencies once renowned for their innovation and creative prowess.

The bitter irony! The very agencies that once prided themselves on cultivating exceptional talent and nurturing lasting client relationships now resort to tapping into the gig economy, seemingly oblivious to the potential repercussions. As these titans of the industry revel in their quick-fix cost-cutting measures, they appear all too willing to bring under the guillotine, the cornerstones of their success: permanence, stability, and trust.

The quagmire gets murkier when one considers the legal and ethical implications of such a decision taken during a moment of collective short-sightedness.

Then you look back at the decision-makers who make up a large part of today’s ad agencies, and these transformational tactics begin to make sense. They’re the ones who pick up businesses at an irrationally low fee (the undercutting undertakers), global CEOs hired temporarily as serial (job) killers, frigid finance guys, and the dry-as-chalkdust legal departments.

Is this the beginning of the end? If such practices are normalised then the answer, unfortunately, appears to be a resounding yes. The talent conundrum carries an imminent threat of placing the industry at the crossroads of an identity crisis.

Client data privacy, once the bedrock of any respectable agency-client relationship, now teeters precariously on a tightrope. How can an agency guarantee the sanctity of its clients' most sensitive information when it entrusts the reins to transient creative mercenaries?

As for the freelancers themselves, many abandoned the confines of agency life in pursuit of autonomy and direct client dealings. Yet, here they stand, poised to infiltrate the very organisations they sought to escape. One cannot help but ponder the potential conflicts of interest that may arise when freelancers, lured by the prospect of unfettered access to clients, begin to forge their own clandestine connections. It’s a win-win for freelancers, and why not? They are being served on a silver platter.

Here’s a comical take on how it looks:

1) The Agency undercuts and wins businesses.

2) The Agency is not able to maintain a balance between money spent and money earned.

3) Agency removes the very talent that helped it reach the final round of negotiation during pitches.

4) Agency is left with businesses but no talent.

5) Agency hires freelancers.

6) Freelancers walk away with the agency’s businesses.

In this absurd theatre playing out in some of the agencies, we witness the once-revered institutions transform into mere contractors and body shops, outsourcing the creative brilliance they were once known to foster. As disillusionment festers, clients may soon grow weary of this charade. They may seek solace in the arms of those they once paid good money to avoid – the freelancers themselves.

Amidst the cacophony of twisted allegiances and careless loyalties, short-changed clients are left ruminating on even more critical questions. How can they find the stability and ethical integrity they were once promised? How can they distinguish between authentic relationships and those built on shaky foundations?

Despite the turmoil, there remains a glimmer of hope for clients seeking genuine partnerships. Those agencies that have retained their talent and continue to uphold a strong sense of conducting business the right way stand as shining examples. These agencies prioritise culture, creativity, and stability, and as a result, they attract clients who value these qualities. More power to those agencies.

freelancers client data client relationship gig economy ACD creative consultant agency Soumitra Karnik