It bears repeating: the ad industry can be very conservative. Even though it is filled with creative people, those that try new things are inevitably smacked down under a storm of knee-jerk criticism, whether it’s what Droga5 and Smuggler tried with Honeyshed or the Agency.com's radical Skittles Web site. Add Agency Nil to the mix.
Hank Leber is a 28-year-old VCU Brandcenter grad who has the same frustrating problem of many of his peers: he can’t get work. Instead of groveling for yet another internship, Leber is taking the initiative. He started Agency Nil by taking a page out of Chris Anderson’s book. He’ll let clients set the price for the work. As someone without a long track record, Leber needs to do this to take on risk.
The reaction has been mixed. Over on my Adfreak post, there are 19 comments, nearly split down the middle of positive and negative. The positive ones praise Leber for trying to forge a new model, while critics carp he’s devaluing the work. What struck me, though, is that Leber is giving it a try on his own, rather than sit around and wait for agencies to cut the management fat to hire hungry, young, digital-savvy people like himself. More, not less, of this is needed in advertising and other industries, including media. It will be interesting to see if the downturn causes people to retreat to the safe or take bolder action. In a way, Chris Kahle did this with his successful Twitter campaign to get a coveted job at Crispin Porter + Bogusky. He’s taking a risk. In the words of Alex Bogusky, he’s showing “hustle.” Even Lawson Clarke is showing hustle by bearing his fursuit in his quest for a job. It's easy to dismiss these things as "desperate" or "uncool," but they're gutsy. They're in the arena. It reminded me of my favorite TR speech.