BBH founder John Hegarty is now into online dating—in a manner of speaking. Hegarty has signed on as chairman of Genie, a service that uses artificial intelligence to match freelance creatives with agencies and marketing companies looking for talent. Genie, which he says can be described as “a Tinder for the creative world,” plays into two current trends: the growing distributed workforce and the move toward project-based work.
“It’s like having a creative department in your pocket,” says Hegarty, who is currently co-founder at startup incubator The Garage Soho, but Genie is not part of that investment group. Rather, Genie came to him, he says, as it was “I will use that awful word—pivoting—from a headhunter company to going online.” Genie’s founders include Nicky Badenoch, Nick Grime and Bonnie Harold, who were partners in London recruiters LIZH.
Given the pandemic, the timing was especially good for Genie, a bot that operates via a messaging service to liaise with clients and talent. Clients pitch a brief and the algorithm does the matching with creatives, who become part of the service via invitation only. (Creatives do not pay to be part of the listings). Genie counts among its users Saatchi & Saatchi, Virtue and Droga5 and says its talent base includes creatives who have worked on projects from Adidas’ “There Will Be Haters,” to ING’s “The Next Rembrandt.”
Genie uses technology to “apply intelligence to creativity,” says Hegarty, whose initial goal will be to migrate pay-as-you-go users of the service to switch to a subscription model.
Oddly, in some ways Genie is similar to Marcel, the AI system used by Publicis Groupe, to which Hegarty and his partners sold BBH in 2014—though, as Hegarty points out, Marcel is proprietary to the holding company and works across all disciplines rather than simply creative.