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 has built effective marketing strategies for both startups and established global brands. His entrepreneurial approach to problem-solving has enabled his success at founding (3 companies), leading, and growing organizations for over 20 years. In 2004, Freddie launched his second company, iChameleon Group. His team, with offices in Los Angeles, Miami, and London, produced award winning creative work for some of the world’s top brands including Coca-Cola, NBC, Virgin Mobile, Toyota, and others. iChameleon Group was acquired by SapientNitro in 2008. Freddie has also worked client-side as a CMO for Scout, an $90mm ecommerce business spanning 350 websites, as well as Google-backed company, Kairos. Since founding Chameleon Collective, in 2015, Freddie has held interim marketing leadership roles at various private equity backed organizations including Backyard Discovery, Nixon, and World Airways as well as Bain Credit backed Encompass Supply Chain Solutions. Freddie’s impact at the executive level is always felt. He’s passionate about helping clients transform through innovation, new technologies, and unconventional thinking.