"Gotta make the numbers!"

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That's right, gotta make the numbers. And for a creative shop, it's a challenge. Fact is, a creative agency has to make the numbers two ways. One, you're expected to bring in significant revenue and show a significant profit. Wall Street likes to hear about 15, 16, 18 percent margins. That's called making the numbers.

On the other hand, to attract the best talent and clients, you're expected to bring in significant annual awards show results. Five One Show Pencils, four Cannes Lions, three Art Directors Cubes, five Andy. That's also called making the numbers.

And unless you're careful about how you want to grow your business, these two ways of making the numbers can be mutually exclusive. Say an agency pitches a highly profitable piece of business. Everyone's excited. It's big. Real big. It's a cash cow ATM. But before long, the work they're forced to do is so bad, they won't even admit they do it. Until they try to recruit a superstar who asks about it, and then they're forced to justify the work that's on the air in ways that stretch the bounds of comprehension.

On the other hand, let's say that agency lands an account that wins truckloads of gold hardware and reams of laudatory press. They're renting tuxedos, lining up the trophies and waiting for the new-business phone to ring off the hook. But because they practically volunteered the agency's services to get the account, it's one more loss leader that eats time sheets alive. (As in the CFO asking, "Why is everyone in the agency working on this?")

Simply put, when agencies make the numbers one way, they often fail the other way. In the end, the best way to make the numbers two different ways is to figure out how to make them the same way. No backroom revenue producers. Don't do showcase work and then do crap. No orphans. Do showcase work on the showcase assignments, and find a way to do showcase work on the others.

Stop dividing the agency into quarantined sections: "This account is the revenue producer." "This account wins us hardware." "These are our hacks." "These are our stars." One silo will eventually poison the other in some disastrous way and the agency will blow up. Many have.

The goal is to attract and grow business that makes money as it makes noise. Easier said than done. But if you can find a way for each account (even the most conservative of them) to do something-one thing-that's unusual, new and different every year, it becomes contagious. One great thing leads to another. The clients realize the better work actually helps grow their business. The creatives begin to believe they can actually get great work through.

The good vibe starts to spread. The creative director looks happy. And the CFO looks happy, too.

Start tallying.

Dean Hacohen is executive creative director at Lowe/New York.

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