72andSunny’s Ross Berthinussen: Why Creative Agencies Are Adopting A Senior Talent Model

72andSunny’s Ross Berthinussen: Why Creative Agencies Are Adopting A Senior Talent Model

In this guest post, president of 72andSunny, Ross Berthinussen (lead image), argues there’s a lot of benefit (for everyone) in mature, experienced creative and strategy teams…

The creative industry typically runs on a hierarchical model that has evolved little since the Mad Men era of the 1960s. Younger team members, especially in the creative departments, do much of the heavy lifting, overseen by more experienced directors. 

We’re seeing a trend in the industry that we’ve embraced ourselves: the senior talent model, where creative agencies employ senior practitioners who do the work hands on, rather than overseeing juniors. More of a flat structure than a hierarchy. 

The world renowned KesselsKramer runs this model, as did the legendary Australian agency The Campaign Palace, with the senior talent model often cited as one the key factors behind their success. And it’s not just the creative industry, local media Avenue C have adopted this approach and I’m sure there are others.

There are several benefits of the senior talent model for an agency’s clients:

* Smaller teams are more closely involved in the development of the work. This makes communication, collaboration and focus within the team, and client partners, far easier to foster. 

* It removes ‘fat’ from timelines and budgets, ensuring that projects are run more efficiently for clients.

* Having senior brains on the business with a broader understanding of business and marketing (and a more finely tuned ‘gut feel’) also leads to faster, more effective work.

There are also many benefits of the senior talent model to the agency itself:

* The flatter agency structure in many ways ‘runs itself’, as experienced staff are capable of directing their own output and managing their own time – quality control is baked into the model.

* A leaner and flatter agency structure fosters a more democratic agency. Everyone is sufficiently experienced and respected to have a voice in the agency’s work, and its future. This encourages bravery and innovation.

* It makes projects easier to manage: fewer stakeholders and process stage gates ensure that work can be swiftly ideated and produced.

There is also significant demand from agency talent who don’t want to move into management roles, and instead stay focused on their craft. This model enables them to continue doing what they enjoy the most.

There are some learnings with this model for agencies who are interested in trying it for themselves.

* Clearly senior talent are more expensive so agencies adopting this model need to focus on efficiency and project management – as poorly planned resourcing, unclear briefs or debriefs or unnecessary pivots quickly rack up cost. Deliverables based pricing helps manage this from a client perspective but agency margin’s need to be protected.

* The absence of training for juniors to mid-weights means that agencies using the senior talent model are not contributing to building the next generation of industry talent. Internships are a great way to “give back” in this regard but clearly it would be challenging if the whole industry were to adopt it.

* The senior talent model is perhaps better suited to strategy and creative teams. We’ve found, anyway, that design, project management and production all benefit from having some junior / mid-weight support – as the ongoing daily tasks these departments focus on usually require more hands to do lots of smaller (yet still essential) tasks.

In an industry that has often focused on young minds to drive innovation, it’s interesting that this particular innovation draws on the wisdom that comes from experience.


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Ross Berthinussen Seventy72andSunny

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