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Creative Ways to Sell Creativity

You’d expect to see creative agencies using Twitter to promote their clients. Even seven years after its launch, the platform retains a certain cachet. As Facebook saturates and stalls and Pinterest struggles to get past its audience of shopping-addicted women, Twitter has managed to hold on to and grow its audience of mostly urban microbloggers. Its market of 200 million and the challenge of cramming a message into just 140 characters give Twitter a strong appeal among the creative types who get the fun of being brief, witty and connected to other brief, witty types.

It’s no surprise then that plenty of companies have come up with creative campaigns on Twitter to promote themselves — or their clients. Simply Zesty, a UK digital agency, produced a list of five of the most “brilliantly creative campaigns that used Twitter” in  2012. They included Ben and Jerry’s promotion of Fair Trade Day for which the firm built an app that used leftover characters in tweets to push a fair trade message; a drinks company in South Africa that created a tweet-operated vending machine that turned every purchase into a public announcement; and a commercial for Mercedes Benz that let Twitter users choose the plot of an unraveling story.

And yet, while Twitter has provided plenty of creative campaigns for big brands, it’s rare to find creatives marketing themselves on the platform — which is why  a new idea from Floyd Hayes, the former creative director of “specialized guerrilla and non-traditional advertising agency,” Cunning, has attracted so much attention.

The World’s Fastest Agency

Calling his new venture “The World’s Fastest Agency,” the advertising veteran is offering to deliver immediate ideas to struggling brands. The companies issue a 140 character brief through Twitter’s direct message system, and Floyd, or one of his consultants, shoots a creative pitch back the same way. That’s a pitch delivered in 24 hours and in no more than 140 characters. The fee for the service is $999.

Among the examples Floyd gives are a brief to “Gain media and buzz for our park anywhere small car.” His response would be “Attach replica cars to landmark city buildings,” an idea he used to promote the Mini.

It sounds insane, and yet apparently it works. According to Business Insider, within 24 hours, Floyd had received three paying clients — as well as 20 freelance offers from other creatives and six offers to work as an intern.

Judging by the agency’s website, Floyd Hayes appears to be taking the venture seriously. He stresses that clients aren’t just getting 140 characters for just shy of a thousand bucks. They’re getting the benefit of fifteen years of experience from one of the advertising industry’s leading lights. While they could pay a lot more to sit in endless meetings with ad executives, for a fraction of the price The Fastest Agency can deliver a workable idea in just 24 hours.

But a look at The Fastest Agency’s timeline suggests an ulterior motive. The first tweets weren’t about the benefits of the service or the amount of time and money clients waste in pointless pitches. They were about the extent of the media coverage the agency was generating. While The Fastest Agency might bring in the odd client with a thousand bucks to spare and a willingness to gamble on receiving something useless for their money, the biggest benefit the agency will bring will be publicity for Floyd Hayes.

The story has given the creative professional a chance to talk about his experience and achievements in front of a whole new audience. He’s using the agency as a personal branding tool and Twitter as the channel to deliver it. (If that sounds a little cynical, bear in mind that Floyd’s previous work includes creating a floating soccer field on the River Thames to promote Dockers and renting out his voice to shout “Hall’s Fruit Breezers” around New York landmarks.)

Connections Count More Than Publicity

That kind of creative self-promotion of creative workers isn’t unique. Back in 2010, copywriter Alec Brownstein created a series of Google ads that appeared when the art directors he most wanted to work for searched the Internet for their names. The ad pitched his services and asked for a job. He ended up with three interviews and two offers.

But it is rare. Usually creative firms and freelancers make do with flashy websites and impressive portfolios. A few create showreels which they place on YouTube. Even the most popular of those, though, rarely generate more than a few thousand views, a large number of which are likely to come from students rather than potential clients.

If creatives active on social media, they’re no more active than anyone else and if they advertise, their commercials are a lot less prominent than the award-winning campaigns they create for their clients.

The reason for the apparent modesty of professionals whose job is to broadcast benefits reveals a great deal about the best way to market the value of good work. If art directors and creative executives are selling quietly, it’s because they know that their work speaks for itself. Campaigns are covered in the trade press, and when they go viral they make it into the mainstream press. (That Wieden + Kennedy were responsible for the Old Spice ads was made known by outlets from AdWeek to CNN.) A client looking for an agency to create a campaign knows where to look to find out who’s doing which campaigns and which agencies have the style he or she would like to see in their advertising.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be using creative campaigns to attract attention, win press write-ups and perhaps land the odd thousand dollars for a 140-character pitch. But you don’t have to depend on them. Instead, you should be focusing on creating great work for your clients — and making sure everyone knows what you’re doing as well as what you’ve done.

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