Two ad veterans have opened a shop that breaks with the traditional agency model, the latest experiment on Madison Avenue as unemployment swells and beleaguered marketers rethink their approach.
Pltfrmr (for those wondering, it’s pronounced “platformer”), a startup from former McDonald’s Corp. senior vice president of global marketing Colin Mitchell and TBWA Worldwide global chief creative officer Chris Garbutt, aims to create marketing plans based on brands’ needs and handpick freelancers to bring those about. The company will charge a fee for agreed-upon deliverables; agencies generally work on retainer and charge based on the number of employees and time spent on a project.
The startup arrives as shifting consumer habits and the global pandemic are thrashing the ad business, hitting everything from the way agencies operate to how marketers reach their desired audiences.
“Even five years ago, brands did similar sorts of things in similar sorts of ways,” Mr. Mitchell said. “Now some brands are all about community, some are about entertainment, some utility. So they each require a different blend of talent.”
Thus far, Pltfrmr has assembled a network of about 70 freelancers, ranging from people who specialize in production in L.A. to a luxury expert in Paris. It is working for Ultimate Medical Academy, a health-care training nonprofit.
And companies like Pltfrmr will find a growing pool of unemployed agency talent on which to draw.
Under pressure to slash spending and reach homebound consumers, marketers have seen their budgets cut, leading large ad holding companies to drastically shrink payrolls and change the way they advise clients, according to
Forrester Research Inc.
U.S. agencies are expected to shed 52,000 jobs through 2021, a drop of 11% to 12% in the workforce, Forrester said.
One firm that has been using freelancers for a while is already seeing a boost during the pandemic.
Been There Done That, a six-year-old company that relies on a pool of senior-level specialists, is expecting at least a 60% increase in revenue this year, more than last year, said Co-founder Ed Rogers.
The company, which has worked for brands including Unilever PLC and
devotes a team of three unnamed freelancers to solve a client’s problem over a one-week timespan known as a “sprint.” At the end of the week, the firm presents the client with nine possible solutions, charging a flat fee for the process. The company doesn’t handle creative execution; much like a consultancy, the project is handed off.
“We were built to work around remote working and accessing people at speed using digital tools, so we didn’t really skip a beat when Covid kicked in,” he said.
Under the pall of the virus, clients are looking for savings, but also new approaches in areas such as cementing and increasing market share or strategizing on user experience, Mr. Rogers said.
“Covid hit and was an accelerant for change and innovation,” said Pltfrmr’s Mr. Garbutt. “We’re at a moment where clients are looking for new models and willing to experiment with alternatives like never before.”
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