It’s undeniable that Uber has completely revolutionised the way we do business. Gone are the days when your only option was a driver working in a set car on a set shift, going in blind about their customer. Now drivers can choose their hours, drive their own car, and choose where they work. They don’t have to put up with bad passengers, because drivers get to rate them back. Plus, whenever they want to walk away and do something else, they can. They’re doing it because they love what they’re doing, so they take pride in it, and as a result they do a better job.
This isn’t a one-off situation. This is just the most salient example of a market-wide shift from traditional employment models to a rise in task-by-task freelancing, and our industry is one of the trend leaders. More and more marketing creatives are moving to this new model and taking more control of their working lives. We’re moving into a digitally facilitated gig economy, where the old rules of affinity to an agency no longer apply.
A personalised career and personalised projects
According to research by Edelman Berland, nearly one third of Australia’s workforce is engaged in some kind of freelance work. Just under a third of those people are working in advertising-related areas, including writers, designers and other creatives. These are the people who traditionally would have been working for agencies, but have now shifted to their own rhythm, where they can be more authentic, more passionate and less restrained in the way their creativity works.
Just like Uber drivers rejecting the taxi model, these new creatives have no interest in being locked into a set routine or location. They don’t want to be allocated a certain account beyond a single job or campaign, because they know they work better outside that model. They prefer to choose the products and brands they work on, bringing a refreshing and authentic energy to their ideas. They express a unique level of pride in their work, because these are projects they’re already excited about. Each new gig is fresh and exciting to them, and it shows in their output.
The biggest shift in terms of what freelancers can offer is in the facilitation of storytelling in marketing.
While the shift from the traditional model of bragging and making promises to telling stories about brands has been happening gradually over a number of decades, the rise of the Millennials has made storytelling essential.
Modern consumers simply aren’t interested in who is the biggest or the best; they want products and brands that are about adding substance to their personal life narrative.
Robert McKee, developer of the hugely influential Storynomics course, notes that these stories grab our attention because they focus on change, a factor that is easy to empathise with and, when portrayed in a fashion that is positive for the audience, aspire to. By engaging with empathetic stories, the consumer is more likely to build the product, brand or service into their own life.
The way this fits into the freelancer model is simply that these creatives are already living their own stories. If they can fit your brands into their lives and stories, then they know how their followers and your potential customers will be able to add it into theirs. Apple’s most recent campaigns for the iPhone 6s, sourcing photographs taken on the device from consumers who love the brand, depicts how it fits into these lives and just how easy and desirable it is for new customers to add it to theirs.
What does this mean for agencies?
Creative agencies are still a critical part of the process, bringing together the bigger picture of the brand’s story. Even the aforementioned example from Apple had to be driven by their agency, TBWA\ Media Arts Lab.
However, the gig economy as it pertains to the creative workforce means agencies and brands have to evolve to fit the employment model freelance creators are working to. Not doing so means losing access to unique, high quality talent who have a strong instinct for market trends.
While a lot of us work well within the traditional agency model, those who work outside it can bring new perspectives to those already in your office.
In an interview with UK website Campaign, creative technologist and technical director Mika Tasich said that his experience working as a senior employee left him drained by continually working on “crisis points” – those projects that just aren’t getting anywhere.
He says that freelancing “allows you to dedicate all your energies so you get the good, bad and the ugly.”
For Tasich, that means less burnout and more effective work practices and better campaigns for his clients, who have included Jaguar and Google. Instead of being hung up on multiple crisis points, when a tough brief comes along, he’s fresh and ready to go.
Think of how this fits in an agency situation. When there’s an account that is beginning to feel stale, why not brief in a few freelance content creators to get ideas for a new product, campaign or pitch? Even bringing them in as an extra idea source for your creative team can be a great way to bust through temporary challenges. As an industry, we pride ourselves on thinking outside the box, but how often do we think outside the agency walls? Perhaps it’s something we should do more often: it certainly worked for Nike.
Facilitating the freelancers
Over the past year, VAMP has been evolving to meet the needs of not just brands and agencies but also the talent we represent. While technology is an enabler of what our influential content creators do, we know that it’s about more than a trending hashtag or a sponsored Instagram post.
Freelance content creators and agencies work best when there’s freedom for both sides, and we’re facilitating that for our talent and our brands.
With our model, we allow brands to reach out to talent with skills that stretch across formats – photography, graphic design, copywriting and more – without tying them down to the inefficiencies and costs that can come with having staff on full-time to produce social content.
Conversely, our influential content creators have the freedom to work their creative muscle on projects that already fit into their own stories, adding another page to the narrative their followers are already engaged with.
Many other players in the influencer marketing space are all tech and no art, but what the consumer sees isn’t the number of retweets or hashtags. The consumer is less interested in the numbers, and more in being entertained by and engaged with what they’re being shown, and they’ll only do that when the content is worthy.
At VAMP, we are enabling our talent and helping them unlock their potential for visual storytelling for the brands and agencies we work with. Their content is worthy, because we allow those who create it to do their best work.
The new economy ultimatum
Time and time again, we are given two options: evolve to meet the new environment or be left in the dust of others. Usually, it’s in terms of the way consumers are working in the marketplace, but now agencies and brands also need to think about the way their potential creative talent is moving. That way, they can find the right people in the latter category to understand and reach those in the former.
With their existing networks, freelance content creators are a consumer insight resource with written and visual storytelling skills attached. Do you really want to pass on that?
Because unlike the taxi industry, in our world there’s no hand outs for the ones who get left behind.