Is your big idea a one-off?

$27 car rentalHere’s a picture of a shop near my office. Three weeks ago it was a Lamborghini dealership. Now it’s a place that rents small cars for $27 a day. I reckon that might be a pretty good reflection of where things are at. It seems most successful business models now drive profit through volume rather than margin. And I’m relatively sure there are more people looking to rent a car for $27 a day rather than buy one for a lazy half million dollars.
Look at the businesses making all the money – supermarkets, Google, telcos, the list goes on. They all sell lots of product for a small margin rather than fewer products at a large margin (perhaps with the exception of Apple, who seem to be doing both margin and volume).

And that brings me to advertising agencies. Most advertising agencies deliver a very bespoke product. It’s an idea or advertising campaign designed to suit a particular client’s needs. Even if it can be used to carry another client’s message, it’s contractually obligated not to do so. This means all the work  you do in delivering a product (campaign or idea) amounts to one sale.
So rather than make one product and sell it thousands, perhaps millions, of times  we make one product and sell it once. (Actually, it’s lower than once when you consider the ideas and campaigns we work on that the client doesn’t buy.)

Then on top of this, you have other forces working against the ‘way it used to be’. The internet has conditioned us not to pay for stuff anymore. It’s given rise to the Fremium model, and things like Fiverr.
Sure, in most cases, you get what you pay for. But it seems people don’t like paying for the art of a Lamborghini when they think they can do the same with a car for $27.
So what about you and that big idea you’re working so hard on? Are you only going to sell it once?

4 responses to “Is your big idea a one-off?

  1. I was on a high today. Thanks for the reality check.
    Do you think if an idea is truly big enough, that there must be multiple approaches to it, Ones that can refresh and revitalize it into something unique for a client? Or is that just counter intuitive to the whole aspect of what we do as CREAT-ives?

  2. I’ll jump straight to your last question: “is that just counter intuitive to the whole aspect of what we do as creatives?”
    I guess I’m asking you to challenge what it is that you do as a creative. Traditionally that has meant spending your time coming up with an idea that is an ‘advertising campaign idea’. It’s sold once to a client. Unlike photography, talent and music agreements, the client usually holds all rights and the agency doesn’t make a cent after the client buys it (of course, there are exceptions and agencies are constantly playing with remuneration models but for the most part, that’s how advertising usually works).

    So instead of spending our time coming up with a way to sell using , maybe we should spend some of our time coming up with the next Ebay, Uber, Airbnb, way for newspapers to survive.

  3. Ya I see your point. And the following is probably just my ignorance as a junior.

    traditionally as you are saying we usually sell an idea and that’s that we get paid for something that is used to drive profits for a set period of time deemed by the client.

    But I think revolutionary product insights from an agency such as Nike Fuel Band are what is needed from every agency or at least what the “good ones” should strive for.

    And here is my question or rather point again maybe just phrased better. Are we technically still “ad agencies” or “creatives” if we continue to produce work such as this, things that challenge and push not only our clients business boundaries but social ones as well? Or are we something else; Entrepreneurial Ninjas; Creative Business Hit-men or simply just a new breed of business strategist. I see it as an opportunity for those truly dedicated to the creative strategy side of this amazing business to separate from the ad agencies that produce mounds of average work for a profit without making any real impact on a business or community around them.

    Which after typing all of this I am realizing that is probably your exact point/challenge.


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