Do Brands Need More “Agents?”

by francine Hardaway on August 11, 2010

A post in Ad Age about how even big movie stars are “unemployed”
between gigs, and need talent agencies to help them find work inspired
a conversation this morning on Twitter among Liz Strauss, Albert
Maruggi and myself on the subject of pay for performance and customer
satisfaction. The article said small advertising agencies need someone
to get their clients for them. An agent, like a talent agent. And said
that agents who were on straight commission were highly motivated. At
least that’s what I took from it.
Liz sent this: From AdAge: Small Ad Agencies Could Use Hollywood-Style
AgentsĀ // –>What could you do with this?
Talent agents, indeed, do not get a salary. Instead, they get 15% of
what they negotiate for their clients. Real estate agents don’t get a
salary either; they get 6-7% of the price of the sale.
Straight commission jobs are not for the faint of heart. But they
traditionally foster great and lasting relationships. My dad got his
income for a while from booking artists, and they loved him. My mom
made him stop, because it was both uncertain and stressful. But his
“acts” loved him and remained his friends.

I have only been “employed” for one year of my career, and that was
after I merged my business with Intel (well, they swallowed it up).
The rest of the time, I’ve been an “agent,” for the talent of brands,
companies, and entrepreneurs. I’ve gotten them gigs, articles,
speaking engagements, customers, financing, and partnerships. My
commissions have been equity in many cases. Or deferred compensation,
or partial compensation.

So what does it take to be an agent besides motivation? It takes love.
You have to love the “talent” and believe in it. You have to be
willing to evangelize, to put your own reputation on the line for it.
You also have to be smart, have good judgment, be ready to do
anything, to take advantage of any opportunity. And you have to make
sacrifices. You have to be of service. Don’t let Entourage’s Ari Gold
fool you. Agents don’t bill by the hour, and they don’t get a check
every week. It’s a hard knock life, and there won’t be a season in
which Ari takes it easy.

Of course advertising agencies need agents just like movie stars do; this
season’s “Mad Men” demonstrated this in Episode 3.

But so does every company and every brand. Every brand needs a team
to develop and package projects for it, the way agencies do for stars.
Agencies read scripts, find a director and a producer, and a star,
(hopefully all in their talent stable) and present the package to a
financing source. Only then do they get paid.

The same thing needs to be done for brands and businesses. In the best
cases, it IS done. In the worst, entrepreneurs are scammed by agents
who take upfront fees and don’t produce partners, customers, or
funding (see Jason Calacanis about this one).

One good thing about the recession is that performance is now
mandatory. Even people on salary must perform. Tomorrow at your job,
think of yourself as your company’s agent, not its employee.

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