VCU grad tries a new model with Agency Nil


Advertising is always tough to break into, and never more so than during a dreadful recession. The ugly fact is there's a surplus of ad people right now for the work that's out there. What's a fresh-out-of-school creative to do? Work for free. Hank Leber, a recent VCU Brandcenter grad, is trying to forge his own path to success in the business. Rather than doing everything short of hara-kiri for the right to toil for minimum wage at a big shop, Leber has formed Agency Nil. He hopes to score projects with a simple, time-tested maxim: Nothing beats free. Agency Nil will work without a set price, with the understanding that agencies or clients pay what they think it's worth upon completion—no strings attached. For clients, that takes the risk out of the equation, theoretically, allowing Agency Nil to operate somewhere between intern and full-fledged freelancer. Ben Malbon, managing partner at BBH Labs, loves the idea. Leber, 28, 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."
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—Posted by Brian Morrissey