It’s no secret that the advertising industry is currently in the throes of transformation. The ANA, in collaboration with the 4As, recently published a joint task force guidance paper on the particularly touchy subject of project reviews. Full disclosure: I was part of that task force.
In the “good old days,” a lot of work in this industry was Agency of Record or Retainer work, which essentially meant that once a client found an agency they liked and trusted, everything was more or less funneled through that one source. It was a consistent way of doing things, particularly in terms of the agency in question, as they could depend on a pretty reliable stream of work moving forward.
The bad news is that this model is more or less over. Businesses just aren’t looking for “Jack of All Trades” agencies anymore who are willing to do it all. They’re looking for someone to come in, get a particular job done (and done WELL), and move off to the next client.
Some agencies have begun to push back hard in terms of pitching for project business. My philosophy in dealing with this trend is simple: it isn’t something to deal with at all. You need to embrace it. Not just because it’s here to stay (and make no mistake, it absolutely is), but because it leads to better, more meaningful work for all of us.
Let’s focus on the positive side of this shift. Project work is a hugely efficient way for a client prospect to take a new agency relationship for a spin and really see what someone can do. They have a very particular problem that they need to solve and they’re turning to you for guidance. You get to focus all of your efforts on one laser-focused area and you get to deliver results that are far above what they were looking for in the first place. If you truly are the “Jack of All Trades” you think you are, it should be absolutely no problem.
Project work is also a really great way for a good agency to get work in a brand new category. You don’t just get a chance to surprise the client – you may even surprise yourself, provided that you’re willing to take that step in a brand new direction. If you do thrill the client and blow their expectations out of the water, there’s nothing stopping them from making you the Agency of Record in the future, either.
Project work also wonderfully speaks to the style and timetable that’s fast becoming a way of life in the advertising business. You’re no longer tasked with being the “world’s greatest detective”, taking a huge amount of time and effort to completely revolutionize a client’s work from the ground up. You get to jump in like a SWAT team – you blow the doors off the place, solve your challenge and still make it home in time for dinner. Clients are happy with this shift and personally, I think you will be, too – provided that you’re willing.