Motive: How do you quantify creativity anyway? [Part 1]
by TJ Njozela (@tj_njozela) You’ve probably heard the old adage, “Time is money”. This couldn’t be truer than in the advertising industry, where agencies literally charge clients for the hours that any particular employee spends on a given project. This leads a lot of people to mistakenly think that advertising agencies sell time.
The simple argument is that a fast-food outlet’s product is a burger because that’s what they sell to customers. An automotive manufacturer’s product is a car, because that’s what they sell to customers. By the same reasoning, an advertising agency’s product is time, because that’s essentially what clients pay for.
But what agencies actually offer to clients isn’t time but creative solutions to whatever their unique business challenge is. The real product that an agency offers is creativity. The trouble is how do you take something as abstract and subjective as creativity, and quantify it in a way that makes it a viable business transaction? Before we answer that question, let’s first understand why it’s important to quantify the creative output of an ad agency.
It isn’t as abstract as you think
The perception might be that advertising agencies are full of “creatives” who brainstorm crazy ideas all day to pitch to clients. The truth is that good agencies are filled with very intelligent people. People who manage client relationships, budgets, and deadlines. People who research target markets, trends and methods that lead to behavioural change. People who are skilled at developing effective solutions to problems, and create compelling communications. People who manage workflow and allocate the right resources for a specific project. The list goes on and on. The creative output is the result of collaboration between all these people, and it would be very difficult to compensate them if what they produce couldn’t be put in numbers.
It empowers clients
Imagine you wanted to buy a smartphone but no one knew how much a smartphone should cost. How would you make your decision as to which smartphone to buy? Brand A might have better features than Brand B, but how would you know if it’s good value for money? As a customer, you would feel empowered to make a decision if you knew the cost implications for each smartphone. It’s no different when it comes to agencies. What agencies offer is creative output and, when clients know the cost of that service, they are empowered to choose the agency that’s right for them.
It empowers agencies
Agencies benefit from knowing the value of their product as well. Whether they excel at quick turnaround times, creating truly integrated campaigns, changing the behaviour of consumers, or being a full-service organization, they can price themselves at a competitive rate that correlates with their particular offering. In the same way that a luxury handcrafted car costs more than one made on a production line, a design agency that prides itself on crafting brand identity may price itself higher than one that focuses on quick turnaround on catalogues. This isn’t to say that one is more preferable than the other; both are very necessary in their own right.
Quantifying creativity is a very complex and difficult subject, and there are many other reasons that you could add to justify why it’s needed. But, however you look at it, fair compensation, as well as empowering clients and agencies alike, are key points that can’t be overlooked. Now that I’ve dealt with why it’s important to quantify creativity, in the next column I’ll explain how it’s actually done.
TJ Njozela (@tj_njozela) is an award-winning senior copywriter at FCB Africa with several years of experience in the advertising industry. More than a writer, he is also a reader, a thinker, and an avid liker of things; and he once walked from Joburg to Cape Town in 30 days to raise funds to buy wheelchairs for people in need. #30Days30Wheelchairs
“Motive” is a by-invitation-only column on MarkLives.com. Contributors are picked by the editors but generally don’t form part of our regular columnist lineup, unless the topic is off-column.