26 May 2020

A new agency structure built for the ambitious businesses of the future

Mike Robb

There were numerous factors behind Nick and I wanting to start Boldspace, but fundamental was a belief that the industry is not fit for purpose when working with ambitious businesses of the future. Many of the brands we believe will become household names are being let down.

The more we thought about the root causes of the problems we perceive – a failure to properly combine the objectivity of data with the innovation of creativity, the inability to integrate delivery across advertising, marketing and PR, and staggering inefficiency across the board – the more we realised that a big part of it was structural.

If growth is your only measure of success, you will stifle it

If they’re being honest, most established agencies are driven by a single objective: grow the numbers. And while growth is undoubtedly vital in this line of work, as the only driver of performance it counter-intuitively stifles the very thing you are setting out to achieve. We believe an agency that measures its success, and incentivises its people, solely on financial growth will inevitably expand more slowly.

Central to this is human nature. If growth is the only metric you really care about it is incredibly difficult to deliver the best work for clients. You won’t always provide the advice or take the action you think would deliver the best outcome; your own team will inevitably burn out; and the agency will most likely eventually be fired.

To put it in more tangible terms, if you have a client you think would be better served by bringing in different expertise, you will likely decide to try and do the work yourself, keep the revenue and hit your (short-term) numbers. This sort of thing is an ever-present problem across agency land, and one that results in decidedly average delivery and the inevitable deterioration in the client-agency relationship.

Similarly, pressure from above to rush work in order to squeeze financials into quarterly or yearly results, rather than give the work the time its creators and recipients deserve is completely counter-productive to genuine, wholesome growth. The client won’t come back and the team won’t feel satisfied.  

Agency leaders face their own pressures that makes this an understandable problem. But this being the case means it is undeniably something that cannot be solved without a different approach and structure, built from the ground-up.

Our approach: forever breaking down barriers to delivering outstanding work

These issues were some of the fundamental reasons we decided to start this business and do things differently. Our agency will forever be structured to ensure leaders are incentivised to use the right people for the job; we have built a range of incredibly talented people across disciplines to support our client teams, meaning we can bring-in the right people where niche channel expertise is required; company targets all translate into individual performance measurement and reward, from MD to intern; and we set targets based on a triple bottom line of profit, people and planet.

And from here on in, we will constantly remove even the slightest structural barrier to our mission of delivering fulfilled people, smart thinking and outstanding work.

Make no mistake, we are an ambitious agency and want to grow

This approach is not lip service. It is not there to demonstrate a CSR agenda or have a set of words that will give clients comfort that we’re a good business. We believe that all of this is critical to driving performance and the best possible work for both us and our clients. It is also self-serving.

And so in turn, if we do this, it will be the basis from which we grow more quickly and create more value than the rest.

A profitable business with happy people is pointless if there is no planet to work on

We want to have an unambiguously positive impact on the planet and society, so from day one we set a firm commitment to ensure we are carbon neutral.

At the same time, we believe that businesses with a clear mission to tackle climate change deserve our support, so we offer the same reduced rates to these organisations as we do to charities.

We will also donate 2% of our profits every year to charitable causes and donate staff time to organisations doing good through our partnership with Frederick’s Foundation.

Delivering in practice by aligning incentivisation

But without aligned incentives this structural approach is just a set of words. Each of our three Ps are the basis we use to measure individual performance. If we drive significant financial outperformance but fail to do what we say we will for the planet and society, we reinvest to ensure we deliver in future.

A bold new approach

This agency is built on a series of deeply-held frustrations with the way things are done in many parts of the industry. We firmly believe that our model – bringing together the finest people with the best technology, and a business structured to unleash the potential of this fusion – is what will ultimately deliver the work that ambitious businesses of the future deserve.

We are that agency. Hold us to it.