Flawed Agency Compensation Creates Flawed Work


Creative directors are not the key to delivering amazing creative ideas. We hold them up in high regard for their creative brilliance and original thinking but they are not the white knight sent in to solve all our great challenges.

Winning and delivering great work comes from a culture of creative excellence. It’s a unified desire that spans your creative, strategy, account, production, and amazingly even your business development teams.

Creative types are rewarded within their agencies for their creative excellence. Account types are typically rewarded for the size of their business and the associated profit margins they keep. Business development people are typically rewarded based on the amount of revenue they generate of any kind. These differences highlight a fundamental flaw in aligning an industry (or an agency) to deliver excellence for it’s clients and elevate the overall quality of work.

If your business development people can’t communicate your passion for amazing creative work at the earliest meeting the opportunities will never arise. If your account and project management teams can’t constructively and positively challenge stumbling blocks from clients, partners, or even operational issues then your ideas will always be watered down. But most importantly if they’re not incentivized, trained, or inspired to think differently they will never want to develop the necessary skills to create a culture of creative excellence and fight to do great work.

I recognize it feels impossible to change the legacy of an industry sometimes but this is a revolution that each agency can work on individually and in the process give them something unique to separate themfrom the competition. There are infinite approaches but I’d consider looking at a mixed structure that makes each group take multiple factors into judge their own success. Each project/campaign/relationship that a person is involved could be graded with multiple factors including quality of work, results, profitability, and potentially an extra bonus category for anything that receive special accolades or press.

This drives each individual to think across multiple dimensions of their work and will help align them with their peers. Yes – it’s more complicated for accounting. Yes – business development will fight to only be paid on their sales results. Yes – it will cause a backlash with some of your staff. Backlash will only help you to identify who is more interested in their own agenda and who is dedicated to being part of a team to define their own success.

Less radical approaches could start with testing out a theory like this on an individual project as opposed to re-inventing your entire business approach. You might find it interesting to see who volunteers.

The path to greatness is typically not the one besot with the least amount of challenge.

Whether it is driving results, inspiring consumers, orbuilding icons we all have our reasons for being in our creative industry. For the lucky ones it will boil down to creating great work that you can be proud of (for any number of reasons). It’s this very reason that has always made me think passion was the number one quality to look for in any team member, as it’s the easiest thing to align people around to drive a common goal.

Each agency is different though and not all are driven by a common passion. It’s time to develop a new reward structure that drives people to a common goal of creating top quality work that produces results for the client and is still developed profitably.

How does your agency do it?

About The Author

Freddie Laker
Freddie Laker takes an entrepreneurial approach to problem-solving, helping clients transform their businesses through innovation, new technologies, and unconventional thinking. This has been the foundation which Freddie has built effective marketing strategies for both startups and established global brands for over 20 years. Freddie has been successful at founding, leading, and growing companies. Before providing interim leadership roles to companies Freddie has served as a CEO three times, a CMO twice and a VP of Strategy for one of the largest digital marketing agencies in the world. In 1996 Freddie founded one of the earliest Internet Service Providers in Florida, growing the business to over 15,000 customers. The company was acquired by WebUnited where Freddie joined the team as Director of Sales. In 2004 Freddie founded iChameleon Group. Freddie was deeply involved in the strategy, creative, and the business development process. With Freddie’s passion and talents, he transformed the company to a three office operation spanning Los Angeles, Miami, and London. iChameleon Group produced award winning work for Coca-Cola, Fanta, Burn, NBC, Guinness, Taco Bell, Becks, Kyocera, Motorola, Virgin Mobile, Mentos, and Toyota. In 2008 Sapient acquired iChameleon Group’s talented team to expand their creative offering. Freddie was responsible for driving digital marketing and business development with SapientNitro’s global clients. He brought to the role unique global perspectives gained from living and working in North America, Europe, and Asia. He had a leadership role in SapientNitro's Shanghai office where he helped expand their digital offerings and develop new business. During his time with SapientNitro, he drove some of its most innovative work for clients like Coca-Cola and Unilever. From 2008 to 2009, he drove digital marketing at key accounts and projects at a global level including Coca-Cola, vitaminwater, Powerade, Coca-Cola FIFA World Cup 2010, Happiness Factory 3, and Burn. In 2010 and 2011, he drove digital marketing across key accounts at Coca-Cola (including Pulpy), Unilever (including Lux, Lifebuoy, Paddle Pop, Knorr, Walls, Cornetto, and Omo), and the NBA. Freddie was based in Shanghai but operated across the region with deep relationships in India and Singapore. Freddie founded Guide in 2012. Guide was backed by several notable investors, including Sapient, due to interesting technology that allowed web based text to be converted to video on the fly. It was seen as a path to creating more desirable video content for online publishers, but the technology was not able to mature fast enough to meet commercial standards. After Guide, Freddie chose the path of a client side CMO. First, he led marketing at the leading men’s interest publisher Scout, driving a $90mm member and ecommerce business spanning 350 websites. Then he served as lead of marketing at Kairos, a Google backed Facial Biometrics company, where he significantly grew their inbound marketing platform. In 2015, Freddie founded Chameleon Collective, a consulting firm that supports CEOs and investors by providing executive leadership. He has held interim marketing leadership roles at various private equity backed organizations. Since starting Chameleon Collective, Freddie has led the marketing teams of various large organizations. Presently, Freddie has been the interim CMO for the first long-haul low-cost airline, World Airways. Prior to World Freddie had been the acting head of Direct to Consumer Marketing and Ecommerce at the leading action sports-focused watch brand, Nixon. In 2016 Freddie was the interim head of marketing for Backyard Discovery, the largest swing set manufacturer in North America, before supporting leadership with their merger with Step2. This merger created the largest outdoor toy company in North America. He lead the tremendous growth of their online business across their .com and Amazon. Freddie’s impact at the executive level is always felt. He’s passionate about his work and his desire to make a meaningful impact on companies undergoing periods of transformation. Freddie has spoken at innovation events, such as SXSW and the Cannes Lions, and has written for multiple industry publications, including Forbes, AdAge, VentureBeat, Forbes and PSFK. His marketing work has been recognized by the Cannes Lions, DA&D, SXSW, One Show, CLIO awards, Addys, Webbies, and the Effies. And yes… Freddie has a thing for Chameleons.