Sir John Hegarty, the former worldwide creative director and co-founder of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, feels agency brands need to develop a strong sense of culture to attract a more fluid workforce.
Coming from working-class roots, he also highlighted that diversity is a fundamental part of creativity and imperative to any agency's success.
Hegarty told Campaign that as more agencies lean into a hybrid approach to staffing, flexing up numbers with freelancers to accommodate larger projects, it will become even more important for there to be a distinguishable agency culture.
"I think the future is going to be about fluidity. People say to me, 'Well, does that mean agency brands don't matter anymore?' Far from it. Actually, the need to have a very very strong culture is ever more important in this fluid world. This is because people who are freelance will think 'I only want to work with the people who respect the way I work, my thinking, the way I present, the way I do things.' You will still have a relationship, but it will be a much more fluid relationship.
"So when people say it's the end of agency culture, it's not. In fact, if anything, it increases the need for that culture to be ever more strong, powerful and defined."
Think of an agency like a club
Hegarty stands by the analogy used in his book Hegarty on Advertising (published circa 2011) that agencies need to be thought of as clubs.
"Think of an agency like a club, where you have a core membership, a core team who run it, and then members come and go as they so wish. The members engage with it, you have a relationship with it, that's the important thing. And I think this is what Genie does, It develops a relationship for creative talents and clients so that they know who to work with and how to get the right kind of people."
Speaking to Campaign to publicise updates to tech-based freelance matchmaking service Genie, which he is chair of and an investor in, Hegarty talked about the platform's speed and efficacy.
"As we always say, there are three things that mankind's been obsessed with since the beginning of time. One, predicting the future, to know what's going to happen tomorrow. The other two are speed and access. Speed and access are what Genie delivers for a client. In a competitive world, I want better people and I want them faster, and I want them better for me."
Following rapid growth in 2021 Genie today (11 January) announced the next stage of its growth with the launch of Genie.os, a new talent management system that will further facilitate access to a pool of talent across the creative spectrum.
Genie.os follows its flagship pay-as-you-go automated talent agent, with the addition of offering companies full oversight and control of managing their freelance talent through a subscription pricing model and a live data dashboard. There will be a flat monthly fee for Genie usage, with tiers based on total freelancer spend.
In 2021, Genie made over 13,000 matches that it claims saved hiring companies over 6,500 hours of resources when hiring freelance talent, across searching, booking, handling paperwork and more. Production and social talent have now also been added to the platform. Genie.os is currently being used by Saatchi & Saatchi (Publicis Groupe), Virtue (Vice), 72 & Sunny and Berghaus.
Diverse talent pool
Hegarty feels that diversity is crucially important to any agency, as having a diverse range of people brings richness, experience and different visions. Leaning into the belief that diversity is a fundamental part of creativity, Genie tracks the diversity of its network.
Nick Grime, co-founder of Genie, said: "One thing that we say to a lot of our clients is if you're building a hybrid workforce now, or you're on your way there, that could mean 25% to 30% of your workforces are freelance, so you can't sweep that part of your workforce under the carpet and not understand the makeup of it.
"Genie as a platform tracks all that data. So as businesses build their freelance network through Genie, we can surface all that diversity data for them, because it's a business imperative that they have a diverse workforce and their freelance part of that workforce is critical and important to them."
Genie captures diversity of the talent pool in various areas, including age, gender (where it equates 37% of its talent pool are female), ethnicity (where it finds 20% identify as non-white), LGBTQI+ (16% of its talent pool identify as such), disability and education (where it found 65% of its talent pool are state-educated). This, Genie said, gives the platform tangible, actionable insight.
Hegarty added: "This is not about ticking a box. I always went out and tried to find the best talent I could possibly find. I've found that lots of interesting kids were coming to me from all over the place who didn't understand the way advertising worked, but I didn't want them to. They brought different thinking, different ways of appealing to audiences and they had a relationship with a different social set.
"I remember taking a creative team out that I was hiring for some lunch together in the early 80s. They didn't know how to read a menu. I gave them the menu, it was the Soho Brasserie, I'll never forget it, and they looked at each other, looked at me and said, 'How do we do this?' They'd never been into a restaurant. I thought it was great, it brought a fantastic perspective."