Harrington Unlocks Blackbox

Former NKH&W executive creative director John Harrington has set up a network of award-winning creative freelancers called blackbox adv.

Harrington requires each creative on his new company’s roster to have won at least one award from what Harrington considers the six toughest award competitions: C.A., One Show, ANDY, Kelly, Cannes and British D&AD.

“That narrows the field to the top 2 percent [of creatives],” Harrington said. So far, Harrington has enlisted 110 such creatives, who have worked at agencies including TBWA\Chiat\Day and Fallon.

“The idea is if you get a big enough talent pool, the caliber of people you want will be avail-able when you need them,” Harrington said.

Blackbox adv will use the Internet to allow agencies to view projects while still in development, Harrington said. Though some clients might consider that unconventional, using the Internet cuts down on costs and allows freelancers to remain in their home bases, Harrington said.

Inspired by what he considered to be a shortage of skilled creatives working for agencies, Harrington, who has worked at Saatchi & Saatchi, Ogilvy & Mather and for affiliates of Young & Rubicam and DDB Worldwide over his 20-year career, left Kansas City, Mo., agency NKH&W to develop the virtual network earlier this year.

“Agency margins are getting so squeezed you can’t afford to have creative stars on your payroll,” Harrington said. “By having this readily available supply of star talent, you don’t need to keep as many [of them] on the payroll.”

On a more personal level, blackbox gives Harrington a chance to work with some of the hottest creatives in the country.

“One of the things I wanted to do was continue to work with top talent,” Harrington said. “I’m learning a lot by seeing how the top creative people solve problems.”

Harrington declined to name what clients or agencies blackbox has worked with, but said most business so far has been to help out on new business pitches. Harrington does not require exclusivity arrangements with freelancers in the network, but does require them not to work on their own with agencies they get contracts with through blackbox.