Do you really think charging for ideas by the hour works?

Quick question straight off the bat. Can you tell me how long it takes to have an idea?

Follow-up. Can you tell me how much, then, that idea costs?
Final follow-up. Can your agency?

The answer to all three is no. But your agency will still be charging you hours.
For the past 100 years we’ve been building a system like no other industry anywhere in the world. A system where it’s actually to the agencies benefit to take longer to do the job and therefore charge more hours. It rewards inefficiency and incompetence. To compound that, despite the big agency networks not making a profit for years, they still manage to charge clients too much. The temptation to load bodies (and hours) onto a job is too much to resist. The ‘cost-control community’ did not evolve because it wasn't needed now did it?
Everything in the current set-up, from client services, to finance and even strategy all puts pressure on ideation time. Which is crazy, because it’s the output of the creatives that you as clients buy and that in turn persuades your consumers to buy your products. 

Writers or artists or sculptors or architects do not generally charge by the hour. On a more globally commercial level, Apple or Tesla or Samsung don’t sell their ideas by the hour either.

But everyone seems happy to be complicit. And I’m not sure why, because the answer is out there.

Covid gave us all a chance to reset. Business models were re-looked at. Creative businesses started to trust their teams a bit more and the enforced distribution forced processes to adopt technology that would have taken years to organically percolate through.

Technology that (if they had taken the chance) could have allowed agencies to connect wildly diverse talent. Not just from different geographies, but different backgrounds, different social classes and different industries.
And that talent, working in their own time, in a way that makes creative minds function better, would deliver better ideas. Ideas which don’t come stapled to a timesheet.
While the whole business is "turning itself off and on again", it’s the perfect moment to redefine how we buy and sell creativity. 
Here’s a late resolution. Go to your existing agency (or a new one) and ask them if they follow the steps below. Because we can guarantee (and our clients will back us up) that this process works. And that the old system and paying for ideas by the hour just doesn’t add up.

Buy ideas, not hours

How long does it take to have a brilliant idea? Ideas don’t do timesheets – so why are brands being charged by the hour for them? When that system goes, it’s amazing how speed becomes your friend. And how many better ideas you get.

Put the consumer in the room

The current agency set-up is massively subjective. It usually boils down to agency vs marketeer – whose opinion counts more? Actually, believe in your research and do it as part of the process. At the Liberty Guild, as a matter of course we research twice within the creative process so we confidently know the Purchase Intent score will be north of 80%.

Break geographies

The world is global and connected, yet agencies are only open to people and ethnicities who live within commuting distance of their city. Especially in a post-Covid world, this is truly narrow-minded and won’t deliver you the interesting, diverse work that gives you the standout you need. Ask them to broaden their talent footprint.

Trust in technology

When a tech stack takes the strain of an army of account and project managers, the efficiencies can get invested into the work. Agencies need to understand that technology can be a unifying force. Stand up for, and listen to, your creatives. 

No one stands for the talent in the global debate about the future of the business. They are the sine qua non of the business that we all love. You will hear vocal opinions from clients organisations, agencies (indie and network), the consultancies, VC’s and the holding groups new and old. The talent, up until now, has had no voice. Give them one. And then actually listen. It is after all their ideas that you want. Not armies of project managers and account executives.


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