Let’s start selling value, not hours, by Do Epic Sh*t

“But You Did That in Thirty Seconds.”
“No, It Has Taken Me Forty Years to Do That.” Picasso

Has our time become a commodity? As an industry are we too obsessed with hours? Is it time we need to start really thinking about the value of our time we spend on our clients’ briefs, rather than just the number of hours? I’m thinking of the luxury car industry or the legal industry or even consultants.

In one way or another, they have a way to value the time it takes to execute their craft. Fundamentally cars are made of the same material – metal, plastic, leather, fabric, wires, nuts and bolts and so on; so, in theory, a Toyota is the same as a Rolls Royce. But it’s not. The value and the experience behind the engineering and the quality of craftsmanship in the Rolls is so much more. The same can be said for high-end lawyers and consultants. When they charge their time, you are not “buying that hour” you are buying the years of training and experience it has taken for that person or team to deliver the advice in the few hours you are charged.

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How is our thinking on a certain brand’s strategy or creative idea any different? Do we not have years of experience that is distilled into a few hours? Giving brands our value to create insight, thinking and ideas can change the way a brand is seen, and possibly impact the trajectory of the business as a whole.

It feels like our industry may very well be at a tipping point, and that the moment to truly start valuing our time is now. Is this a moment where we question the cookie-cutter approach to advertising vs the boutique agency – time spent by incredibly talented people handcrafting and creating value at every step of the relationship. Creating “results” that feel different, although they may be made of the same ingredients.

By this point, you’re probably wondering if I am bitter. No, I’m experienced, objective and old enough to see that something has been lost along the way. I’m not sure when, but I believe today we are not adding the level of value we used to. More time, not value. Time has become the currency that many agencies and brands use to gauge success. Time on a client and not the creative or the ideas delivered. It has become about the time that was charged. Simply hearing industry leaders professing that “we sell time” is the root cause of my concern. We sell ideas, innovation, and inspiration, and the harder we work to remember that the more value our time will carry.

This obsession with time runs deep in the culture of the industry. Just think of the running joke in so many advertising agencies that leaving on ‘time’, was considered taking a “half-day”! Let’s not consider weekends nor holidays, because they didn’t exist if you wanted to progress in your career.

But you never got ‘paid’ more. Not only that, but it also doesn’t take a genius to work out the impact this had on our mental health & wellbeing. The quality of our work, our ideas, and our thinking do not carry value. Simply put, across all facets of the industry time has become the currency.

So, if the more junior team members are being overworked and their hours are being double-billed it begs the question: where are all the senior creatives? Well, they have now been promoted out of doing what they do so well – creating work and spend their valuable time managing people and processes. The fundamental output of this is that clients are starting to realize they get limited time with the senior creatives and strategists, so why should they be paying for them?

I started my boutique agency in the Middle East, do epic sh*t, on the back of wanting to do just that, epic sh*t. Amongst many things I wanted to bring more value to my clients, to have actual conversations and really understand their problems (and not what is necessarily written in the brief), and to be available for more than just the first and last meeting. But to come up with a solution that not only delivers the brief but perhaps helps fix or give a fresh view of their business.

When I say stop negotiating time and start negotiating value, we need to be negotiating more on the value we add and not the hours spent. This makes us relevant for the big questions and problems brands have.

These are the types of conversations that can be dizzying for procurement and CFO’s given they are harder to quantify or fit into an excel sheet. The process has been created from a long background of ‘death by a thousand cuts’ from my time in network agencies.

The future of our industry is finding the place where we can add value to our clients and brands, not simply sell the time we spend on it, Let’s start valuing our creatives and strategist again and do epic sh*t! Let’s start to “sell” our value and not just hours.