Startup looks to outfox ‘bloated’ agency model with nimble freelancers

Source: Getty
Source: Getty

Two LA advertising veterans launch Area of Expertise to curate teams of experienced talent for agencies, production houses and brands.

The pandemic with no end in sight is triggering seismic waves in how we work.

June unemployment was 11.1%. Meanwhile, on the job, WFH is an acronym that no longer needs any explanation in the new normal, another well-worn term in and of itself.

However, two Los Angeles-area creative veterans are betting it is a good time to start a collective of freelance advertising and marketing talent. Targeting the “bloated” agency model, they are opening Area of Expertise, a collective that will curate individual freelancers or entire teams for advertising, social and digital campaigns.

“Because we were born during the pandemic, we started from the idea that we would always have remote, distributed teams who have the experience to work independently,” said Dena Gonzalez, COO at Area of Expertise. “We recognize that this situation isn’t going to change anytime soon, and we are confident that creative solutions can be developed anywhere.”

Gonzalez, a nine-year veteran of Omelet, where she was a partner and head of business planning and delivery, joined forces with Jim DiPiazza, Area of Expertise founder and a former agency creative director. DiPiazza’s career has included stints at Deutsch LA, Walton Isaacson and David&Goliath.



“Times have changed; how we all work has changed,” said DiPiazza. “People seem to be open to new ways to solve problems.”

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Upwork, the global freelancing platform, are predicting remote, agile and freelance careers are here to stay. In Upwork’s 2020 Future Workforce Report, 62% of hiring managers surveyed said their workforces will be more remote than pre-pandemic estimates. Already, according to MIT’s COVID-19 and Remote Work Report, half of workers employed prior to the pandemic now work from home.

In this environment, DiPiazza and Gonzalez said corporate decision-makers are ready to put more faith in the freelance workforce. Area of Expertise has about 60 freelancers in its database, spanning planning, creative, social, production and analytics. Client expertise among the founding freelancers include Coca-Cola, Farmers Insurance, Clinique, Taco Bell, E-Trade and Target.

“I think the market for curating talent is just now starting to blow up,” said DiPiazza. “Clients are realizing that they don’t need a bloated agency, they just need a team that can solve their challenge without getting married to them.”

Before starting Area of Expertise, DiPiazza briefly freelanced and was impressed by the level of talent in the ranks. His remit was to staff and run a new business pitch for a production company, and in two weeks he sourced a team of freelance experts who won the business.

“That got me thinking about the power of category experience and why there wasn’t a solution out there that could answer yes to the age-old client question, ‘Do you have experience in my category?’ “ said DiPiazza.

As for Area of Expertise’s first client: discussions are ongoing.

“We’re targeting the entire marketing and advertising vertical, essentially, anyone who needs expert talent...anyone who recognizes the need for category experience and is looking to work with a team of experts,” said Gonzalez.

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