Consider the Creative Collective

by Patricia Fitzgerald

When you think of ad agencies, what image comes to mind? Maybe a scene from Mad Men, suited account execs schmoozing with clients over martinis while the creatives chain smoke in some dungeonesque room in the bowels of a building? Or perhaps you’re envisioning one of those ultra-hip agency offices, you know, like the one with a basketball court next to the breakroom (for reals).

In reality, brick-and-mortar ad agencies aren’t always the creative fun-zones they appear to be. We know: we used to work for one, as did most of the talent on our team. In our experience, the typical agency is often a cubicled collection of unhappy, unproductive people. Bogged down by their own bureaucracy, many an agency are slow to respond to client requests and struggle to effectively capture what a client is looking for.

Which is exactly why we left the confines of the agency walls to create our own creative collective of independent talent — otherwise known as a virtual agency. While some businesses still balk at the idea of working with an agency that doesn’t have a physical location, we’re finding that more and more clients are embracing creative collectives and the advantages that come with them.

In this week’s post, we take a closer look at why you might want to forego martinis with a fawning account executive, and consider partnering with a virtual agency instead.

Everybody’s doing it

Well, that's not exactly true, but increasing numbers of workers in the U.S. are doing the job from some location other than an office building. According to a Forrester study, 63 million people worked remotely in 2016. That comes to an impressive 43 percent of the working population.

As more people telecommute, businesses are becoming more comfortable with using creative teams who also work from home. Thanks to a host of online services and apps like Dropbox, Skype, Google Docs, GoToMeetings, and Basecamp, it’s now easy to share work, collaborate, conduct meetings, and manage projects all without having to get together in a physical location, face-to-face.

Happy talent makes for better creative

At the agency where we used to work oh so many years ago, 90 percent of the employees were miserable 90 percent of the time. The Copy & Design team, on the other hand, is pretty much having a blast working with each other as well as with our clients. We firmly believe that being a virtual agency has a lot to do with that.

A study conducted by Stanford University reveals that people who work from home enjoy more flexibility and freedom, and as a result are happier and more productive. Scientific American reports that people who are happy, tend to be more creative. In fact, this study shows that remote creative professionals are up to 20 percent more creative than their office-bound counterparts. So when you partner with a virtual agency, you’re working with happier people who are producing better creative — and more of it.

No water cooler = more work

Creatives who work at agencies spend more time in prolonged production meetings than they do at their desks, actually creating. With a virtual agency set-up, the creative talent is free to focus on producing excellent work for their clients, without the distractions of pointless meetings, water-cooler banter, or impromptu foosball tournaments. Which also means that the people working on your project get more done, more quickly. When it comes to lightening-fast turnarounds, virtual agencies are often able to deliver a higher caliber of work in less time.

There’s also something about the kind of person who chooses to work in a virtual agency set-up. It’s certainly true in our case. Some folks need the structure and accountability of a physical office, with managers looking over their shoulder. Those who work well in creative collectives tend to be more independent and entrepreneurial. They’re self-starters and self-managers who put their noses to the grindstone and get to work — without anyone telling them to.

Fewer people, faster response

The typical agency structure can be a bloated thing, with multiple layers of people between you (the client) and the creative team producing your work. Creative collectives trim the personnel “fat,” leaving behind a lean team of just those professionals necessary to complete the project. There are a couple of advantages to this.

In a creative collective, your input and feedback go directly to the people actually doing the work — without being filtered through account executives whose main mission in life is to please the client (aka you) at all costs. Having unfiltered access to the creative team is important for a number of reasons. It allows them to hear directly from you, so they have a clearer understanding of your goals and challenges. When you want something changed, or have an idea you want to float, you’ll be able to share that with the team all the sooner and see your comments incorporated faster.

Likewise, when your request isn’t feasible, practical, or the best way to reach your goals, the creative team will have direct access to you to let you know. They’ll also be able to present alternative solutions based on their first-hand knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. Yes, as a creative collective we want to keep the client happy. But we also want to make sure the work we produce gets the best results.

All the right people

Virtual agencies have the distinct advantage of being able quickly assembly just the team needed to get the work done. That team may be comprised of a copywriter and designer, and that’s it. Or maybe you need a photographer, or a videographer, or a web designer and back-end developer to build your online store. Whatever the needs of the project, a good creative collective will have the immediate connections to the right talent for the job.

What’s more, they’ll be able to ramp up or down as the needs of the project change. Which means you won’t be paying for the salaries of staff who aren’t contributing to your project.

Overhead? What overhead?

A smaller team means a smaller dollar amount on your invoice. But there’s another way working with a creative collective can save you money. A virtual agency means that there’s no main office. No ceilings, no electricity bills, no breakroom-adjacent basketball court. In other words, no overhead — or very little of it. Those savings get passed along to you.

Leaner, less pricier, more flexible and responsive, and happier people producing better creative work — what more could you ask for in your agency? If you’d like to further discuss the advantages of working with a creative collective, we'd be more than happy to accommodate you. We may not have a fancy conference room, but we’ve got plenty of chutzpah. And FaceTime.

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