Thursday, January 3, 2008

Show me.

A day or so ago, I read something great about how agencies should not solve problems without being financially engaged.

How true. But how often do we all have a prospect want us to “tell us what you will do for me”. Or to “don’t do any creative, but give us an idea of what you’d do” as if that’s not the freaking hard part. In other words, do work for us before we hire you to do any work for us.

Now, I can totally understand the need for someone who isn’t in our business to want to know exactly, precisely, absolutely, 100 percent what they are buying. But at the same time, I can’t for the life of me think of another industry or profession that gives away what they have of value before anybody has agreed to pay for it.

A surgeon doesn’t take out your spleen or re-work your nose until you agree to pay him. An architect won’t design your home or condominium project unless you pay him to do so. H&R Block won’t do your taxes and then see if you want to hire them to do your taxes.

And, lest anybody think I would compare us to doctors or architects:

A plumber won’t unstop your sink unless he knows you’re going to pay him to do it. A meetings resort won’t let you hold a sales meeting unless you fork over a hefty deposit. And last I looked, McDonald’s won’t let me take a bite out of that Big Mac until I pay for it.

So why do people sometimes expect advertising agencies and design studios to put out ahead of time?

Answer: because they can. For too long and too often in the pursuit of new business, agencies have been willing to do a little spec work or throw a little thinking at a project in hopes of getting the work. I’ll admit that we have.

And that was a mistake we won't knowingly make again unless the stakes are just off-the-charts high. And even then it's not a sure thing. What we have to sell is our thinking (um, hence the name) and once that’s out, it’s gone. And we can’t get it back.

Speaking for Nasuti + Hinkle, we’re in this for the money. Not just the money of course, or we'd doing a totally different kind of work than we do. Like car ads. But we are doing it to make a living. And we do this instead of something else because, well, we like it and we're good at it. We’re lucky enough to be in a business where we get to play with creativity and problem-solving every day. We get to write jokes and draw pictures, go to photo shoots and recording sessions and meet a hell of a lot of interesting people. All the while providing a legitimate, valuable service to our clients.

But just because we like what we do for a living, doesn’t mean it's not hard to be good at it. Or that we want to give it away.

If someone wants to know anything about what we do and/or how well we do it, it’s all there on our web site. We will be more than happy to send printed samples, CD samples, e-mail samples or anything else that works. We will gladly provide the names and numbers of previous clients and never ask them they said about us. And we're happy to show what we can do with a small, low-cost, low-risk tryout project.

We'll give a prospective client everything we possibly can so they can decide whether they think Nasuti + Hinkle Creative Thinking is the right group for them.

But we won’t work for free. And if someone wants us to just to stay in the hunt, then I can tell you right now, it’s not going to be a fit.

Not for us anyway.

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