Bogusky: "Creativity May Be a Commodity"; Eyes End of Big Agency Era

Last Updated Jul 14, 2009 12:06 PM EDT

In an interview with a Huffington Post blogger, Crispin Porter + Bogusky boss Alex Bogusky suggested "creativity might be a commodity." The statement is interesting because it shows that he is thinking about what is arguably the single biggest threat to the agency business today: The fact that creativity is no longer special and can be found cheaply -- or for free -- on the Internet.

If clients no longer need to pay agencies large sums for creativity, then the agency world is out of business. It's a position I've been arguing since 2007. And it's a position that faces considerable resistance in the agency world, as BNET noted in a piece on BBH in April. Bogusky said:

Facing agencies today. Oh man, there's a bunch of challenges. One of them that I think a lot of agencies seem to be scared of is the whole outsourcing thing. I've heard a lot of conversations about, you know: is this going to ruin the existing model and what is the new model? And is creativity a commodity? And you know, my attitude is that creativity might be a commodity, I really don't know.

... I think we'll see some smaller agencies become bigger agencies. We've seen that in the democratization of capabilities, and I'm sure in this revolution of social media, we'll see a lot of longstanding big agencies struggling. Depending on how you access crowd sourcing, potentially the agency can be really driven by that stuff yet keep a layer of editorial and expertise at the top that allows them to still deliver the same kind of work people expect from a larger firm.

Or, to put it another way, once you've wrangled your creativity cheap or free from the Web you need many fewer people to manage it, which is why Bogusky thinks the threat will arrive first at larger firms. CP+B has about 700 employees and is thus not immune from that.

It was also gratifying to see a major agency chief say out loud that the TV upfront process is an illogical waste of money:

Well, I do wonder how television continues to become more and more expensive as it delivers less. You see the up-fronts every year, and I'm not a media person, I'm just a creative person, I don't really understand these things, they're very complex. But I have wondered why rates continue to go up for fewer folks. I think that's gonna break at some point, and that's where you'll see some of these dollars come from and you'll see them flow into other spaces.
I've argued previously that the reason TV prices go up while demand declines is because the networks have engineered a very clever system that approaches an antitrust violation (one of my colleagues disagrees).