The Writers Guild strike is basically a debate about how creative types can (or can’t) make money in the new media era, where content is everywhere.
In my new column for Talent Zoo, I take a look at agency compensation and the fact we’re all feeling pinched these days.
Since there’s no legitimate quantifiable method to determine the financial impact of a brand’s ad campaign, performance-based models don’t work so well. Because we simply don’t know how well our work works. So there’s no real incentive to do effective work in advertising. The creatives who work for ad agencies don’t get paid based on a campaign’s effectiveness or longevity. To most hiring managers evaluating creative talent, an award for an ad that never ran is of a higher value than an effective ad campaign that ran for years. I’ve created ads, taglines, and websites that were used for years—long after I was gone from the agencies I did them for. But that is of little comfort to me. Advertising creatives don’t get residuals or royalties; hell, most of the time we’re never even thanked.
It’s no surprise that the entire industry is in a downward revenue spiral. Clients are squeezing their budgets in an increasing WalMartian fashion, and squeezing their vendors in the process. There’s not much profit to be made slapping a viral video together and posting it on YouTube or seeding it on blogs. We once made money on media and production markups—and those are dwindling.
Ad agencies and their employees will continue to struggle to make money–and what’s happening in Hollywood is a sign of things to come. Only there’s no strike to fall back on.