Blacksmith Collective: a good, but risky business
Capitalising on a skills shortage in advertising in the digital age, Blacksmith Collective draws on a pool of creative talent — but it is well aware that there are risks attached
Outsourcing project work in the ad industry is nothing new. But as specific skills become scarce and the value of long-term client-agency relationships is being questioned, the concept is once again finding favour in the local market.
Taking advantage of this trend is Blacksmith Collective, founded by former Ogilvy & Mather creatives Diogo Mendonça and Marcus von Geyso. They describe their business as a production collective specialising in content creation and what they term "creative problem-solving". The gap in the market, they say, was obvious. "We just wanted to better the creative industry. It’s not about grinding out work to meet minimum requirements. We want to innovate and push the creative envelope. Through a network of creative talent we can deliver great work that is inspired and well thought through."
Mendonça says: "We spend a lot of time researching our creative teams to find the best fit for the job at hand."
The collective is already working on brands including Castle Lite, Opel, Budweiser, Shell and Visa and has collaborated with big-name agencies including King James, Joe Public and TBWA.
Mendonça and Von Geyso believe their model, in spite of financial risk attached to project work over retainer-based income, is the future of brand building.
"Our business model allows us to adapt and evolve based on ever-changing content needs. Using like-minded individuals, all focused on doing great work, makes our content more authentic and relatable to the consumer. People are hungry for great advertising that speaks to them personally."
They are wide awake to the risk in their business, as project work is often a one-off and used by larger agencies who have a short-term staff capacity shortfall, or by desperate brand managers whose existing agency has been unable to crack an idea.
Von Geyso concurs. "Potential risk is that it may cause strain on agencies’ pre-existing contractual relationships, due to an inability to service clients quickly. This new way of working is still foreign to most agencies and clients and may cause friction. But we like to push the idea of collaboration. We are supplemental to agencies, not competition."
One leading marketing director warns that while the outsourcing of advertising work has the advantages of providing a fresh perspective and flexibility if a brand is working across time zones, there are also pitfalls to look out for. These include the risk of exposure to confidential information; conflict of interest as project agencies could be managing a similar account or that of a competitor; and making sure there are mechanisms in place to ensure quality control.
Blacksmith Collective is essentially capitalising on a paucity of skills in traditional agencies, particularly in the digital space.
Says Mendonça: "We believe it has created a power shift for creatives who are able to meet today’s content needs but whose work is often overshadowed by traditional process. From a skills point of view we feel our model is also more open to creatives receiving more credit for their work.
"We try to push a mind-set that is open to ideas from anywhere, and if they are great we make sure to assemble the correct team to execute them and credit every person who contributed."