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Macala Wright: Finding Creative Talent In A Sea Of Mediocrity

In today's constantly changing working world, there is a need to quickly connect creatives to companies at various price points. PSFK chats with Adam...

Macala Wright
Macala Wright on February 3, 2013. @macala

Research published by Rosalind Bergemann in 2010 among workers who voluntarily chose to become independent reveals that 74 percent of respondents cited lack of employer engagement as their principal reason for leaving. More and more people are choosing a contingent work style — that is, temporary work that may be project-based or time-based — in order to obtain a better work/life balance.

The contingent work trend aligns with the rising demand in content marketing. Agencies are actively seeking storytellers and content producers as their clients become multiscreen, cross-platform publishers of information, entertainment and escape for their customers. With this, one would think that finding quality creative talent for content, marketing, advertising and production would be easy. But if you speak to most senior level executives and leaders that’s not the case, they’re constantly challenged with mediocrity.

So where do executives and agencies go to find the creative genius they need? They go to Adam Glickman at The Idealists. The Idealists is a marketplace for ideas and talent (which PSFK first covered in 2010), the the site allows creatives searching for backers to submit ideas. For brands and or creative agencies, the website allows them to post projects or full-time positions and the Idealists will help qualify and filter through those qualified to fulfill the roles or project work.

There’s lots of waste from creative shops and brands in marketing efforts. Because if this, Glickman saw the need for brands to find talent for “a lot of smaller, targeted executions rather than large executions.

How does The Idealists work for members?

We are an invitation only site, so all our members meet a criteria based on professional experience. Once inside, we consider ourselves a one-size-fits-all marketplace, members range from individuals to full service agencies capable of handling global campaigns. When a member—be it company or individual—joins, they set their profile to receive updates based on their personal expertise and budgets of interest. Then they only hear from us when there is a project or job opportunity that fits their settings. If the clients needs and members means align, the parties get to work and we get out of the way.

Tell me about the premise behind The Idealists?

The site was built upon the premise that in the new digital world, there is a vast amount of five figure client needs that aren’t being properly serviced. These budgets are too small for the traditional agencies and too big for the fully automated and/or crowdsourcing sites. Within that niche lies an opportunity; from record labels needing a music video to a law firm needing a website, a fashion brand needing an online film to a museum needing a social media strategy. Meanwhile, with production costs coming down and so many talented people hanging their own shingles, there was a need for an aggregate that simply, quickly and confidentially matches needs and means. Its a win/win for both client and creative. So we built the resource that everyone needed – consider us a niche search engine.

What has happened since your inception in 2009?

Just like any new business model, you continue to tweak and calibrate, improving on the things that are working, fixing or discarding the things that don’t. And most importantly, listening to your community to make the services better, faster and more cost-effective. In the end, we are (hopefully) building a strong brand name based on trust and respect.

Tell me about the collaboration with NOWNESS? Participants had to submit an Idea for the chance to make a fashion film with NOWNESS and Idealists, what was the outcome?

The NOWNESS project like most film projects posted to our site. A client puts out a call for filmmakers and interested members submit their reels, none of our members are ever asked for spec work. NOWNESS asked a select few to write treatments for a fashion film on behalf of Miu Miu. From there the job was awarded to director Molly Schiot, an artist and filmmaker. “Schiot’s treatment for today’s story was chosen from scores of submissions for its simple yet engaging concept of animating the spirit of Miu Miu’s colorful, graphic prints. “[The] collection has so many of our favorite things,” said NOWNESS.

We’ve noticed a definite meritocracy build within the site whereas members that are talented and engaged keep getting awarded work. Molly fit that description.

How does The Idealists benefit brands?

We resemble a Hollywood talent agency more than a Madison Avenue creative agency. When a client need presents itself, its our job to deliver the best solution based on budget, schedule and creative needs. This is a real benefit to companies that have communications needs but either don’t require or can’t afford a full service agency.

 How does it differ from LinkedIn?

It’s a much more specific niche, a lot of our creative user base isn’t on LinkedIn at all and our community is curated for quality control. If Linkedin is the nightclub, The Idealists would be the VIP room. Less volume, but more personalized service, applied to higher value transactions.

What is your revenue model?

We take a 10 percent commission for jobs awarded via the site. Think of it like Agent 2.0. We also provide recruiting services for a select group of agency clients who are billed similar to traditional model.

You’ve recently taken on private investment and are expanding, tell me about your future plans.

Sure, we didn’t go by the traditional tech start-up playbook (scale fast, worry about a business model later) as it was important to me to create a sustainable business—a big part of what excites me about my job is engineering new business models. So we bootstrapped and figured it out as we went. We learned to crawl, then walk. Now going into our third year, it’s time to run! I can’t say too much more other than expect to hear a lot more from us next year. Oh, and we are actively staffing up for a New York City office to open shortly.

What are the shifts you’ve seen in the creative industry and how is your platform meeting those changes?

Great ideas are not so hard to come by. But everything you need to make them happen (budget, time, talent and production team) can be. At the end of the day, and it doesn’t matter what business you are in, the one consistency is that you are only as good as your talent. The Idealists simply makes it much, much easier to access and discover what you need. We are an action-based marketplace, with info being shared only on a need basis.

What’s going to work in 2013 and beyond with this a marketing and engagement tactic?

To the point in your article on leadership, my take is that the web is now pushing up against the limits of automation. I think I can speak for everyone that’s ever tried to use the web to check their kids cold symptoms, find a special occasion restaurant or a good lawyer, that it’s unclear what information is solid and trustworthy.  If I need a quick bite, Yelp is fine, but when you’re dealing with decisions that have real ramifications (beyond a bad meal)  you need a trusted, experienced adviser.  You’ll find this across many industries.

I’ve just applied it to creative work, advertising and marketing. So that’s what we do, automate the parts of the process that can be automated and don’t attempt to automate the parts that cannot. The formula for Idealists is 90 percent automation and 10 percent curation, that’s where we’ve found the best signal to noise ratio.

Thanks Adam!

The Idealists

Macala Wright is the Head of Digital Innovation & Strategy, US for Group Partners.

 

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Macala Wright is a business strategist and research analyst with a passion for journalism. As a writer, she merges her passion for storytelling and narrative with her deep understanding of technology and strategy to help bring innovative ideas, products and programs to life. Interested in the tools and platforms that society uses to communicate culture, her writing and studies explore how people can become better communicators in order to shape their futures, share their ideas and create a better world to live in.

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