Crabs in a Barrel
he storyline is almost cliché at this point. The script almost rehearsed by most and sent out to all actors in massive numbers. It is committed to memory. Every creative knows the challenge of negotiating with a brand or agency. One asks for one price, another pops up offering a lower price, next comes one willing to do this for free in exchange for a free product. The room goes silent and just as the brand side personnel are about to ‘pen’ the contract, another voice from further back offers to do the job for free, no product, nothing. If need be, they will buy the product themselves. Instead of competing upwards, for most the price goes down as the skill level improves.
The market ever expanding takes advantage of the information asymmetry among the creatives and the silos they create against each other to the benefit of the demand side. Younger upcoming photographers, film makers, illustrator, animators and dancers all aching to get their names out there. To escape the bucket and join the few in their profession who are truly thriving.
The free market and the crab mentality
Albert Einstein said, “in the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.” This is a common phrase, intended to give hope but what Einstein left for all to figure out was the role organization plays in finding opportunity. Chaos itself if organized, often benefits one party. The great information age, catalyzed by a life threatening pandemic, job losses and growing uncertainties about the future has brought to question many long held beliefs. One of which has been the manner in which creatives have engaged each other in the market.
We have had the great privilege of having these conversations with creatives all over the world. The summary, great work doesn’t always yield great results. The problem, a lack of transparency within this side of the market. Hence pricing tiers, negotiation strategies and acceptable work compensation is conveyed more in rumors than ascertainable facts.
The vulnerability of being closed off
In an economic system in which prices are determined by unrestricted competition between privately owned businesses, i.e the free market. A lack of equal information results in imbalances. In the creative industry, the lack of information on pricing, best practices and negotiation strategies lead to creatives being taken advantage of. Information asymmetry if carried out for a long enough time becomes a norm. The acceptance of the starving artist, the actor working 5 jobs while taking calls from his/her agent, all in the hopes of making it big without considering the in between.
Many creatives complain about brands reaching out to persons with social reach, paying close to nothing to have their products advertised. Yet, very little is done to restructure this side of the market to better compete and eliminate the imbalance.
Breaking the bucket
The INCMMN strategy has been simple. Create a safe environment for conversation. This allows creatives to share with us their experiences, their pricing strategies and their work requirements. This is done in a manner than ensures we will not be broadcasting the nitty gritty of their professional lives. Our findings are in support of the crabs in a barrel mentality. Our process looks to end this system and redefine how brands work with creatives and the place of the creative in this ecosystem.
Beyond the bucket
What we hope to find at the other end of this spectrum is an improved brand - creative relationships, focused on mutually beneficial relationships as opposed to the plug and play model. Brand investment in creative growth and culture and creative investment in producing long term amazing creative works that solidify the desirability of the brands.
We also hope for an enhanced creative-agency relationship. One focused on fostering growth for creatives. Making available useful information for all creatives and higher ‘activism’ for their creative counterparts. We also hope for more collaboration between agencies and sharing of best practices.
The goal beyond the bucket is competing upwards, growing and most importantly thriving.
Grace Guyatu Diida
Growth and Strategy, INCMMN