In the quest for finding the agency model of the future, the industry seems to have gone too far -- as evidenced by the launch this week of a new virtual ad agency that's not only based entirely on Twitter, but delivers creative ideas to clients in 24 hours or less.
The new agency, which bills itself "World's Fastest Agency," was started by Floyd Hayes, a creative consultant and former creative at Cunning, London. On the website for his new-model agency, Mr. Hayes claims that by working with him, clients can get the creative ideas they need faster. "Clients can say goodbye to 100-page PowerPoint decks, meetings, weeks of fee negotiation, countless emails, more meetings, lunch, meetings, scope of work to-ing and fro-ing, meetings, more emails, Q&A sessions, tissue meetings, inaudible conference call, pitch, feedback, feedback on the feedback, re-briefing, re-pitching, another meeting, more feedback, focus groups, another meeting, more emails."
There are three steps to his process, which starts with paying him. The process is done without any face-to-face interactions, and potentially can be done without ever picking up a phone.
- Step 1: Deposit one-time agency fee $999 via PayPal
- Step 2: Send the brief via twitter Direct Message to @fastestagency
- Step 3: Within 24 hours, clients receive the creative pitch via Twitter direct message
With that experience under his belt, he asserts that he's not just good but fast. Big global agencies, the likes of the BBDOs and Leo Burnetts of the industry, can't come up with big creative ideas in a flash like he can, Mr. Hayes claims. "Clients increasingly need quick responses and I can provide this," he said in an email. He claims to be best at coming up with tag lines, naming products, PR concepts, experiential and social and guerrilla marketing.
Tom Finneran, exec VP-agency management services at the 4A's, said the thinking behind this new shop is flawed. "Advertising services is about getting to the right strategic ideas," he said. "While speed to market is certainly important to clients, rushing to the marketplace with an idea isn't good for anybody. Clients contribute to great advertising. Agencies don't develop it in a vacuum. I can't imagine any serious reputable advertiser who would subscribe to the World's Fastest Agency."
Mr. Hayes meanwhile claims that he's gotten hundreds of inquiries since heralding the arrival of his new agency concept yesterday. And he's gotten a lot of sharp criticism too.
One email he relayed to us read: "This is ridiculous. You're charging over $7 a character? Yeah good luck with that pal."
As ad agencies battle with client procurement departments to defend their fees, the notion of one entrant in the space now openly stating that it charges a one-time fee of less than $1000 is something that many agencies will see as undercutting and detrimental to the industry at large. Mr. Finneran, however, said it will have little impact: "The truth of the matter is that this approach isn't close to credible and won't have any impact on the agencies because it's not legitimate. Any client who tries it will get what they pay for."
However wacky, the concept is evidence that the pressure to perform and deliver ideas at lightening-speed has never been so heavy. Real-time marketing matters today if brands want to stand out with consumers, so clients are putting the pressure on agencies to come up with concepts faster.
"When I thought about how this would actually work, I looked back at the work I've been involved with over the past 15 years," said Mr. Hayes. "I examined hundreds of briefs and decks. It began to dawn on me that the good briefs could be condensed to one essential sentence and a good creative response likewise."
There's no doubt that the RFP process can be too long and complex for a marketing world that needs to move faster to keep up with changing consumer trends and technology. This was something that Madam, a new search consultancy that cropped up last fall, said it was addressing by the use of Pinterest Mood boards and Skype Calls as part of its process.
Where Mr. Hayes could potentially succeed -- and this is only if he has the right agency contacts -- is partnering with agencies. He claims he's happy to work with agencies "running in the background" while the typical RFP process unfolds, or when a sudden opportunity arises on a short time frame.
Said Mr. Hayes: "On the agency side (and again they'd never admit this publicly), many of them dread the conversation that goes, 'Hey we need a big idea by Tuesday, we've got very little budget, it's a pitch but hey, it's a cool project!' Rather than dealing with this, an agency can white label WFA for a fraction of the cost of engaging their salaried team, leaving them to focus on developing work for retained or paying clients." He claims to have a database of 2,000 producers, artists, designers, planners and coders who he can call on.
Partnering with agencies was something Victors & Spoils, which billed itself as the world's first agency built on crowdsourcing principles, tried (and in some cases, succeeded) to do before it was acquired by Havas a year ago.
So what do you think? Is World's Fastest Agency the model of the future, or is it a fail? Tell us in the comments.