Plan B: Less is more

After more than a year of studying the state of the industry in Canada, the partners at newly launched Plan B saw indications the market was ready for a company that concentrates only on creative projects and lets clients know the costs upfront.

After more than a year of studying the state of the industry in Canada, the partners at newly launched Plan B saw indications the market was ready for a company that concentrates only on creative projects and lets clients know the costs upfront.

‘We offer less,’ is the motto of the new Toronto shop opened in mid-March by well-known industry veterans Brian Harrod, co-founder of Harrod & Mirlin (now merged into FCB Canada) and former president of H&M, Trevor Pedler. The company will either charge on an hourly basis or figure out costs by determining the talent, number of hours, and production values, according to a client’s budget, needs or preference.

As they researched the new business, Pedler, also former president of Portofino Studios, says he heard concerns from marketers that it takes too long to get work out of the big agencies, not to mention concerns about creative quality and agency accountability.

‘When you look at agency management today you wonder what business they’re in – the business of advertising or in the business of business. What we’re not seeing unfortunately is the focus on advertising. Agencies used to be on the leading edge, [but] now there’s a reversal.’

As well as client discontent and frustration with the traditional agency model, the duo found agency cutbacks left shops without enough senior people to work on a project, or without the skills needed for the job.

‘What we’re hoping to do is offer quality creative, painlessly,’ says Harrod. ‘We can tailor to all needs, and when clients and agencies come to us, they know exactly what they’re going to spend. If plan A isn’t working, come to Plan B.’

Plan B, which has no clients as of yet, will not have permanent clients but instead will operate as a creative and strategic resource for both advertisers and agencies. With Harrod, creative partner and Pedler, strategic partner, as the only employees, plan b will draw from a network of seasoned freelancers depending on a project’s requirements.

Harrod says by offering less – as in, creative only – clients know what they’re paying for and there are no hidden fees.

‘All those [other services] have to be factored into the client’s fee [at a big agency]. Whether they’re using them or not, they have to be paid for.’ Another issue, he says, is that large multinationals need to send ‘a return of 17%, 18% and sometimes 20% back to New York. That has to happen no matter what else is happening in the business.’

Similarly, another Toronto agency called Mentor Communications Group also opened its doors last summer, promising to charge clients ‘for what they use, not for what they don’t,’ according to president Linda LeBourdais. Mentor offers various services, such as event marketing, and counts Wendy’s Restaurants of Canada and the Canadian Marketing Association among its clients.