The Economic Value of Ideas

A question that has long plagued me has been one around attaching real economic value to creativity. By studying both advertising and economics, my academic background is one of contradiction but has also given me a unique approach to business and creativity. For me, creativity holds great value, value that should translate into real bottom-line impact in a business. I have attempted, and not quite yet gotten there, on an economic model that will simply and concisely show that creativity has real monetary value. I have involved some real economic minds on this one but find their grasp on creativity lacking, expectedly.

A thought process that has come out of this argument has been on a personal level too. I am someone who makes money for businesses through my ideas, my time is then charged for as a resource for the business I work for but does time always reflect true value and meaning? In working with large, traditional advertising agencies I have picked up some serious inefficiencies in the way in which they work, charge for work and promote staff. I have too often found ill-experienced employees over-charging clients for poor creative and strategic work and leaving meetings with an arrogance of “the client has no idea what they are talking about” after receiving criticism for the work. They would tell me that they worked all hours of the night and weekends to produce the work but they really have little to show for it which tells me, billable hours are no reflection on quality of work or value.

If we had to treat ideas as if they were currency, which it absolutely is for idea workers, that would mean that, like a currency, you should be investing your ideas wisely to ensure the best return on idea investment. This translates into effectively putting brain work into the projects that matter, effort that will see the biggest return. Considering also, the institution in which you invest your ideas, the company or brand you invest your ideas into by providing you with enough growth on your returns. Is your creativity getting better over time? Are you being challenged with interesting work? Are you encouraged with a growth-driven environment?

I oftentimes struggle with the marketing and advertising industry as the work does not drive as much impact as I would like and agencies are not working smartly or effectively with their staff’s idea investments. The cause really sits within education institutions that continue to teach outdated curricula where value either sits too heavily within the artistic but not economic (with the likes of Vega), or too heavily within traditional marketing practices that are no longer relevant (like your traditional BComm courses). Experienced staff at agencies should be focusing much more on the development of junior staff and providing them with holistic work experience rather than executing grunt work.

As I continue to work on my economic model, I would love industry input as to how we can really start making more effective agencies and communicate the value of our ideas better to clients.