Mixtape lets clients ‘pay what they can’

The agency creates a model that suits small businesses that need to adapt and marketers who are reluctant to spend.

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With small businesses in Canada suffering economically during the COVID-19 pandemic, Toronto-based ad agency Mixtape wanted to play its part in helping these organizations out by offering its services through a “pay what you can” model.

The way it works is simple: a brand or business comes to the creative agency with a business challenge, and it works with them to come up with a creative and strategic solution that works within their budget.

According to a survey published by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business last week, 32% of independent businesses that have had to close due to the pandemic are unsure if they will be able to re-open – 25% say they can survive less than a month under the current conditions. In terms of the broader marketing industry, according to a poll conducted by Gartner, almost two-thirds of marketing leaders expect to face moderate or significant budget cuts this year.

Joe Myers, president and founder of Mixtape, says clients are shifting their dollars and overall thinking away from marketing and more towards keeping the business running and staff employed, given the economic realities of COVID-19. “We felt with less dollars to spend, we wanted to alleviate the stress of the unknown,” he says, adding that the “pay what you can” offer is particularly well-suited to small businesses, given what it has been hearing from existing clients in that sector. “We felt that they’re the ones that are certainly hurting the most. And we’ve always wanted to give small businesses the big agency treatment, no matter what their budgets are.”

Many agencies have been trying to pivot and come up with new models to help address a drop in client spending and new business. For Mixtape, marketing budgets and dollars from existing clients has “reduced slightly,” but “there’s still a need for them to stay close to their consumers.” The most noteable change with the briefs that are coming in is that they’re much more “laser-focused” on the short-term. Instead of focusing on their brand plan for 2021, they are looking at tactics in terms of few weeks and months, due to the uncertainty surrounding the duration of this crisis.

“It has become a strategic and creative challenge for all of us, and reductions in marketing budgets are just kind of adding to the challenge,” Myers says. On the bright side, though, that laser focus means Mixtape has the opportunity to work on “much more creative solutions.” And since Mixtape’s “pay what you can” offer launched last week, Myers says the bulk of requests have been from brick-and-mortar businesses wondering how they can pivot to become a virtual storefront and shift to a delivery-based system.

Myers didn’t provide specifics to strategy as to how many businesses have reached out and taken the agency up on its offer so far, but did say that those who have aren’t trying to take advantage of its generosity. “The folks that we’ve been able to chat with since this promotion went live have been very fair in terms of where their budgets are.”