As you may have noticed, in these last couple of weeks we have made some changes in Plastical.
First let’s begin with the –so called– bad news.
Basically we have decided to shorten our executive’s team mainly for 2 reasons.
First, we are a consulting agency in the creative field and we are not focusing on design or graphics only. We state that agencies and SMEs need to be flexible and adapt quickly to the market challenges and we can’t give strategic lessons and then not act accordingly.
We are moving in a very fast and challenging market and we need to be able to adapt quickly. Unfortunately, having a specialist in-house is demanding: salaries, taxes and social insurance are fixed costs that need to be payed regularly, while clients (especially during economic crisis) aren’t doing so. You need a backup plan and some sort of financial reserve to level fixed costs and incomes. We all agree: that’s the right way to go to be a loyal and fair employer, but that’s not the point.
If the market changes, prices drop and clients’ needs evolve (for example they do not ask from custom made CMSs but for WordPress powered sites, thus cutting work hours), how can an agency quickly adapt to new market scenarios if its founds are held down by high fixed costs? There are two possibilities: rise the prices or reduce costs. Rising prices in a very competitive field (other mid-sized agencies and crowd-sourced platforms are the main threads) is dangerous, especially if you’re not a world class agency and your reputation is not at such high levels to justify higher rates without offering some extra benefits. Does our agency work better than others? Guess what: only clients can judge. Does our agency have some added value that others don’t? Once again, the prospect and the eventual client will find out.
We think we have those requirements: we know that we have a great added value and we always offer true uniqueness, but that comes from our personal and professional backgrounds and –must admit– not by our technical skills. Today everyone can buy some digital image editor or download some vector graphics application and start playing. Online there are thousands of tuts and anyone can learn some tips to refine and edit pictures, create some fancy logos or build a CMS driven blog with great results. If you’re stuck with fixed costs and you want to stay competitive, you can’t bill more than the average just because you have to pay salaries to your oversized team.
The second reason follows: if you’re stuck with fixed costs, you won’t be able to move beyond the mediocrity. Yes: if you must follow the rules because you have strict administrative deadlines, you can’t take risks. If you do not take risks, you will never offer innovation and truly be above the others or distinguish yourself.
We spoke a lot internally about our mission statements and our goals, and there was no excuse to settle down and be “another 360º agency” like many others. What’s the point? Plastical does not want to be compared as an other “ad agency” like hundreds others on the market… We think we are different (and we hope to be), we are definitely small and quite dynamic. Because of that we are able to offer great value for great price.
And here comes the question: are we seriously in need to charge more just because we have to pair our incomes with our outcomes? Or even worse, shall we always agree for any type of work –that is more of a trouble than a real creative job– in order to manage our financial assets? Well… There must be something wrong.
Clients have to pay for the true value of what we offer to them and not just because we have a plethora of talents hanging around in our agency. That’s why we decided to notice our visual director: we spoke and he agreed that there was no point of being employed if we could not offer him a real and creative workplace just because we had to ensure incomes, thus pay salaries, taxes and other linked costs.
It is the worst thing that can happen to an agency that states to be “creative”: there’s no creative work, just running after money and not pursuing the vision and the mission in which we all agreed when we decided to ground and run Plastical several years ago. And this vision states that we want to offer great ideas to institutions, businesses and individuals that face daily challenges by creative and unconventional ways.
To be truly creative and unconventional we couldn’t play safe and limit our services to well established ones. We needed to truly think out of the box and meanwhile run our business because we’re passionate and enthusiast of what we do: there’s no point of being an entrepreneur and not having fun with your work. If that happens, then the time has come to think and re-consider a life as an employee… The idea we agreed upon is: live like is your last day on earth, and when your time will come, be sure to leave this earth better than you found it. To put it in concrete words: act as you’re a start-up and never settle down.
We also considered a yet-not-so-secondary aspect: if our whole revenue goes into salaries, how would we ever grow and invest in our technical equipment and explore new creative fields? We are not only competing with other agencies, we are now also threaded by crowdsourcing platforms that open new (and dramatically cheaper) ways to bid and receive tons of great inputs by the creative community. Do we want to enter into that competition too? Well, we are taking it in consideration, but we must be clearly ready to re-adapt our workflow and merely begin to think, act and work as would a freelancer: dozens of sketches and variants of the same subject and very, very limited chances to win the bids. Basically stay and play with the smalls… Is that what we want? It all depends of what we will able to do and reach as an agency in the forthcoming months.
We also thought to hire more people. No, seriously. Big players want big agencies: is about numbers and critical mass. But is it really so intriguing and engaging, when your agency is maybe a mere production unit and not part of a strategic vision, involved in the earliest part of the chain? Or, even worse and as many times noticed: hired and dumped after a few years (and a lot of investment in people to hold the client) because there is an other newer and fancier agency that gained the highlights? Many times I saw small agencies win big clients, hire team members like fools and then, when client’s plans change, broke down because of suddenly cut revenue streams.
Or, as stated above, would we rather like to focus more on our true individual skills?
We know that those range from strategic and marketing vision to more pragmatic abilities that help us build tangible and engaging experiences (which are not merely technical) inspired by the true needs of the clients.
We came to a conclusion that there’s no other path to follow than to stick with our mission statement: inspire and add value by creative means. We have the experience and the right skills to sit down and find the appropriate solutions directly with our clients. And this kind of consulting service is directly tied to strategies, business ideas and marketing areas that can’t be freely outsourced to the community or left to an undefined flow of ideas (although many certainly would be great, but how to select and filter the best ones among hundreds?). Those core areas are the value proposition of any kind of business that wants to succeed in a given field: and those are the fields where we, at Plastical, exceed and are able to offer a true competitive advantage.
What all this means to our business and for our clients is very simple: we keep up with what’s new in the creative field and we still offer a bundle of graphic and multimedia productions (and when needed, by asking support to great freelance specialists: designers, photographers, video producers, illustrators, developers,…), but what we do more is to bring a solid experience and a unique business oriented mindset that goes far beyond what other agencies usually offer.
We hope that our new internal organization will be considered a mayor benefit.