19 July 2011

The man with the macbook pro in Sri Lanka? Sri Lanka can, no?

Gideon Spanier
18 Jul 2011 

London Evening Standard

Going global: Will creatives buy into the idea of an online trading exchange?
Advertisers and ad agencies have only just begun to explore the ways digital can transform they ways they trade with each other. Advances in technology, efficiency, transparency, data and the ability to transact in real time and on global scale are just some of the reasons driving change.
The advertising industry is used to buying ad space online but some niche players are emerging which are hoping to capitalise on the trade in creative ideas.
Blur Group, a start-up in studios under the West Way in Westbourne Grove, is an online exchange for advertisers and creatives. Any creative can join from a one-person operation to a micro-agency with ten staff or even, say, an 800-strong agency.
Founder Philip Letts says more than 11,000 different freelancers and outfits from around the world have signed up since it launched 18 months ago.
Then, when an advertising client comes to Blur, it puts out a brief which theoretically can be seen by all those creatives who can pitch for the business.
In practice, explains Letts, Blur usually manages the process so that a relatively small number of creatives see the brief.
Blur is now getting around two briefs a week and expects to have run 500 this year. Some big-name advertisers such as Disney, General Electric and Sega have come on board in recent months.
"This markeplace is increasingly becoming a place where people want to provide and source creative services," claims Letts. "It's a more cost-effective, more rapid-response and bigger, broader place to find creative solutions.
Since Blur acts as intermediary, the advertiser doesn't have to go through the hassle of setting up a formal roster, negotiating with lots of different creatives. Blur handles the financial side, taking a 20% cut of whatever budget goes to the creative.
The advantage for the micro-agency is that it can compete with big agencies on the same pitch while the client can get greater transparency on price.
That is particuarly important for digital work because clients often don't know much to pay to build a social media page or a mobile phone app.
"You can put a pitch on the exchange and you get prices back and you know what the market is for a website or phone app," he says.
Letts, who ran internet start-up Beenz a decade ago and left some time before its closure, believes Blur has the potential to disrupt the established agency model by letting advertisers go direct to the creative.
"We're not like a retained agency model with lots of account directors to pay and expensive offices.
You might retain the agency but on a smaller level."
Just don't expect big agencies to accept that meekly.

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