Pay? Who, Me?

Any industry that sells creativity on demand dances a tightrope between art and expediency. In this economy, that rope is not only frayed but one-sided. Expediency 1. Art nil. Except, of course, we’ve never been in greater need of the creative spirit if we’re really to innovate our way out of this mess.

My friend Jerry Solomon runs a film production company and blogged about an issue this morning that exemplifies why we’re shooting ourselves in the foot when it comes to fueling innovation in this country. 

Innovation requires creativity. Every year the advertising industry - one of the economy's creative drivers - meets in Cannes and offers an award for ‘the most innovative idea of the year’ - the Titanium Lion.

Which makes me wonder why so many advertisers and their agencies are now advocating a policy that would put out anyone’s creative fire.

Meet Sequential Liability - the art of commissioning work while shunning responsibility for its cost.

As advertisers and agencies race for the safety of the ‘hire now - pay much later or maybe never’ high ground, those left behind - the suppliers - are being asked to play today’s game by yesterday’s rules. ‘Hold the film negative’ is the new old cry.

But, as anyone who’s run their own business will tell you, that’s not a payment policy. It’s a time bomb from which the pin has already been pulled. Because in a world without credit, the cost of one uncollectible, one million dollar receivable can put a ten year old service company under - no matter how much film negative is in their vault.

If as a society we are going to create and innovate our way out of this, we need a model that encourages creativity and innovation.

And in this economy, expecting the smallest companies to do the work, provide the credit and take the risk is not that model.

In terms of the advertising industry, I like Jerry's first solution best. Have the advertiser put the money in escrow, draw it down as the job progresses and hold five percent until everyone signs off. Simple. Cheap. Effective.

And if an advertiser can’t afford to do that. Well, isn’t that how we all got here in the first place?