Is It Time to Flip the Agency Model?

“I hope I have to pay you a fortune.”

A client texted me this message recently in reaction to a campaign proposal. This client is participating in a pilot project my agency started last year. We wanted to see what would happen if we flipped the traditional agency business model. In recent months, that question has been answered several times over with reactions similar to his.

The advertising agency business model is not something I’d ever given a lot of thought to until my friend Lee, one of Europe’s top corporate lawyers, asked me to explain it to him. I described how agencies pitched for business, ran projects, set prices, billed for their services, and how they were staffed. I saw a furrow cross his brow that only grew deeper the more I explained. When I finished, Lee looked at me quizzically and said, “So, let me get this straight…” What followed was an accurate paraphrasing of everything I’d just described. But, hearing it spoken back had a profound effect on me. I’d never realized how ludicrous the whole thing sounded.

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