Hank Leber, 28, founder of Agency Nil, answered some questions for us.
Q. This is a tough time to break into the agency business. What’s your experience been?
A. I’m in the job hunt, but stuck in the mire like most others. I get a
lot of “we would if we could, but we can’t.” The hardest part is the
stark contrast between this year’s hiring experience and every other
year of the Brandcenter. It’s a premier program and the jobs were
flying out the door by this time last year. Some say this year will
build character in us, and we’ll look back on it fondly later. Right
now, it feels incredibly frustrating. With Agency Nil, it was a natural
product of the environment. My mother used to always tell me growing
up, “If the wind don’t blow, row.”
Q. What kind of stuff do you imagine Agency Nil doing?
A. I’d love to see Agency Nil set an example for frustrated agencies out there as well as struggling freelancers. There are options. Business-wise, it would be nice to have tons of clients, more work than I know what to do with, and be able to be choosy. But the truth is, I’m just happy to be working with any clients who have an open mind to the idea, and who value progressive thinking and new approaches to business problems.
Q. Do you have any projects so far?
A. I do have them rolling in already. In fact, within 90 minutes of going live with the site, I had my first work order. Looks like it’s going to be a mix of agencies and businesses.
Q. Is there a risk you’ll depress the market for creative work by not setting a price?
A. This isn’t about undercutting anyone. It’s about supply and demand—honestly, I think this should’ve happened a long time ago. The system has been terribly lopsided for a while now, and I hope this can be the start of a breaking point in the industry on some level. It won’t depress the market—the price will still come up and down, and work will get done just the same. Except now, it won’t be based on a set amount of hours to fill or stay under, and work can get done for work’s sake. For quality’s sake. For the client’s sake.
Q. If it takes off, isn’t there a chance some freelancers will kneecap you?
A. I’m going to wear shin guards and kneepads for a little while.
Q. What’s your dream job?
A. There are some really great creative, interactive-minded, hard-working, honorable shops out there right now. I’d love to be a part of the mix at that level. The stuff winning awards at One Show, Clios, D&AD—really smart, strategically minded work that actually performs in the market. Not just creative muscle flex. I’m a strategist by trade, but love the creative process in all its different ways. I want to bring that approach to the table with newness, maybe break some rules, shave a few cats, who knows.
—Posted by Brian Morrissey