The trend dujour in agencyland: leaving the big holding company networks behind to launch a remote, distributed agency workforce.
The latest duo to try this out are creative execs Jay Gelardi, formerly of Huge, Crispin Porter + Bogusky and The Monkeys, and Russell Heubach, who also worked at CP+B as well as BBDO, JWT and Mcgarrybowen.
On Monday the pair officially launched Gypsy, a network of nearly 2,000 creatives in 70 cities around the world. Gypsy’s platform uses an algorithm to match creatives with brands looking for specialized skills.
While the skills and output required for creative work have changed dramatically, the agency business model has stayed the same — and that’s caused the work to suffer, Gelardi said.
“The model has been pretty broken for a while,” he added. “The media landscape has fragmented so much, you need specialists, and that becomes expensive for an agency.”
Gypsy aims to break down that model by operating a small core team that sources talent for brands from a large global network. Tapping into a broader group of specialists allows Gypsy to fill whatever gaps the brand has, whether that’s fluency in a certain language or expertise in a specific vertical.
“It allows us to put a smaller specialist team on a project and do away with inefficiencies,” Gelardi explained.
To best match talent with brands, Gypsy asks creatives to go through a “vigorous vetting process,” that requires details about their skills, past brand and vertical expertise, cultural exposure and hobbies outside of work, Heubach said.
Gelardi and Heubach, who have both worked in various countries, started reaching out to industry contacts in mid-2019 and Gypsy began growing organically from there. Today, roughly 75% of talent on the platform are creatives, strategists and account managers, while the rest have a range of specialist skills, from music composition, to photography, to direction.
Gypsy’s clients include Tinder, Twitch, Netflix and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, and work ranges from innovation, to creative strategy, to creative AOR accounts. Gypsy can also source talent to augment internal client teams.
“We can morph into different shapes to work alongside agencies in a complementary way,” Gelardi said.
Like other agency startups, Gypsy hopes to capitalize on the shift to remote, flexible work, which has only accelerated during the COVID-19 crisis.
“The ad industry had become prohibitive to a lot of people with family or lifestyle demands, and giving people the opportunity to work when and where they want is a “massive draw,” Gelardi said.
“Barriers in gender disparity, age, geography — all of these things can be broken down by flexible models,” he added.
But Gypsy isn’t the first startup with this business model in the market. It claims it can compete with others, however, thanks to the size and global nature of its network, which can attract a range of talent, as well as the amount of data it collects through the vetting process.
“Other companies tend to be small remote bands of people,” Gelardi added.
Either way, it seems there is room for multiple such networks in the market, as more and more talent gets laid off from the big holding companies and seeks flexible, freelance work. Gelardi and Heubach declined to share revenue figures but said both are “surprised and happy with the way things have gone.”
“The amount of unproductivity that happens in that archaic way of working has gotten a lot of people really fed up,” Heubach added. “The truth of it is, being really creative and productive isn't a nine to five role.”