Tuesday, July 31, 2012

After-work drinks at the Olympics

One of our copywriters, Miriam Young, enjoying after-work drinks... she's writing for the Olympic organisation, reviewing events.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Ad agency vs. freelancers: When to hire freelance creatives direct?

Ex-Head of Copy at Lowe, and CD at Leo Burnett London. Now international consultant for hire.
Why hire a whole advertising agency rather than just the key individuals for a project? What extras do you get when you work with an agency? Is it worth the extra cost? Are the cost savings worth the potential problems? How and when should you hire freelancers direct? These are questions a marketing person now needs to consider when a new project looms. Simon Carbery says the answer can depend on your type of company.
Ad agencies or bespoke teams?
If you're a marketing manager and have an assignment, you now have two realistic options: you can decide whether to hire an advertising agency, or you can use key people direct.
It partly depends on your experience, your own expertise, and your company culture. Many would say that if you've always worked with agencies, why rock the boat? Unquestionably, the best communications agencies offer fantastic expertise in one or more media comms skills, and if you’re a mega-brand the sheer hassle of trying to do it all yourself can make the cost of an agency seem worthwhile.
But the key word here is ‘cost’. Not everyone wants to pay for an agency’s overheads as well as an agency’s expertise. Because in an online, globally-connected, communication-savvy, post credit-crunch world, that expertise is now available worldwide in freelance form. In abundance. A new world, in other words, has opened up for brands who want to go direct to the talent.
Ad agency or direct to the talent? Looking at both of these options and helping you weigh up the pros and cons is what this article is about.
Option 1 The advantages of working exclusively with a comms agency
1. Complete service
An ad agency offers a start to finish solution. You go to them with your problem and if they're good they’ll understand your business, provide the right strategy, the right idea, in the right medium, and create the work. Then they place the advertising, send out the viral ad, do whatever else is required, and all you have to do is pay the bill.
2. Less risk, more dependability
You have more security when you work with an agency. Like an accountant or a trusted supplier, they become like another department of your company. You know
They’re there for you. With an appointed agency there’s always someone to answer the phone and be accountable for your work.
3. Continuity
Permanent staff in an agency are what the name suggests: permanent. In theory at least, the team working on your business will be made up of the same people over a period of time. Continuity means they can develop an understanding of you and your business, and a feel for your brand. And you can develop a dialogue with them.
4. Coordination
If it's a large communications campaign with multimedia strands, coordinating all the elements can be challenging. One of the strengths of comms agencies is their ability to get to grips with these complex elements.
Option 2 The advantages of hiring creatives directly
1. Cost
It’s cheaper. That’s the No.1 reason in the current economic client that people hire creatives directly. You can make big savings while still getting equally good results
2. Control
With fewer people in the chain you can see exactly what's happening and have direct input, so the end-result should be closer to what you want.
3. Speed
Thing happen faster. That’s the other benefit of improved communication – things take less time. Fewer people need to free their schedule for a meeting. You can simply call your freelance individual or team, ask when they can deliver, and get it directly.
4. When you know what you want
If you know exactly what you want, whether it's a press release written for a new product or a label designed for a bottle, then it makes sense to hire an individual with specialist expertise without paying his employer’s overheads.
5. You’ll know who you're getting
You get to choose the creatives you want to work with. They're not assigned to you by the agency. You've seen their CVs, their portfolios and their personalities. You know if they're right for your brand. And you can talk directly to them – you’re dealing with the people who are actually doing your project.
6. Experience and expertise
With agencies cutting their budgets due to declining margins, permanent staff are becoming more junior and less experienced. Carefully chosen freelance people can
often provide a level of expertise no longer easy to access through an ad agency.
7. Free with a freelancer
When you hire an agency, often you sign a contract for a year or more. With a freelancer you can stop working together at any time if the results aren’t what you’re
looking for.
8. Concentration
An ad agency has many clients and only so many resources and your project can be ‘de-prioritised’. A freelance individual or team is likely to be focused entirely
on your project.
8. Agencies hire freelancers. Why shouldn’t you?
If you work with ad agencies, you’ve already got freelancers working for you – ad agencies use freelance people all the time. Why pay advertising agency costs and a commission for their freelancers?
9. Fun
It’s more rewarding when you are a partner in the creative process. You work directly with the creative team and can bounce ideas off each other. More productive, more fun.
How can you maintain control when working with freelance people?
I’ve already touched on some potential downsides when it comes to working directly with freelancers directly. But these can be negated when you work with them via a specialist freelance agent. Good agents only work with tried and trusted freelancers and can co-ordinate multiple freelancers to form a team to work on your brand. You might need planners to create a brand strategy, creatives to hatch the concept, designers to make the website ... perhaps local to you or the country you're targeting. Obviously there is a fee for this extra guarantee and service, which is included in the freelancer's rate, but this is significantly lower than agency commission and you only pay for the hours worked.
Smart brands go direct
I work with communications agencies of all types: advertising, design, branding, direct marketing and so on. But working solo or alongside carefully chosen team partners, I also work direct for brands. Because more and more brands are looking for small teams of people at the very top end to fill in for a comms agency. Often they have an in-house brand director who came from an agency background. They know how the business operates and want to run the show themselves. They cherry-pick the top creatives and form a small and elite team to create concepts they know will work for their brand. This is how it works for me. I specialise in top-end creative concepts. We don't work for the brand - we work inside the brand. Between us, my team partners and I,have worked directly for Apple, Nike, Education First, Diesel, Paul Smith, Caterpillar and others.
How to access top freelance consultants through an agent
I'm represented by The Collective, an international agent that provides freelancers to Nike, Apple, Philips, Tommy Hilfiger and many more. As well as the above-the-line campaigns I work on, where they team me up with an art director to form a creative team, they also provide a regular supply of designers and copywriters for below-the-line or direct to consumer marketing, who create printed or online communications materials. Copywriters also provide transcreation (translation by a copywriter into their native language) and it's for jobs like this, where you need a large network of external freelancers - potentially problematic and time-consuming to source - that an agent like The Collective is useful.
In conclusion
Freelancing works for me then and the companies I work for, but for others it's up to them to decide. It depends on the company and how good the agency or freelancer is. My recommendation is to try a small project with each before you commit to a big spend and see which works best... agency, freelancer or agent.
About the author: 
Simon Carbery (Personal website / Collective profile) trained at Saatchi's, was Head of Copy at Lowe, and CD on Barclays at Leo Burnett London in 2009. He has won more than 20 major awards, been a D&AD judge on 3 occasions, a Member of the D&AD Executive Committee 2006-09, and had his own column in the advertising press while in Australia. He freelances all over the world as both a creative director and brand planner, and has unusually wide experience in all media, from TV advertising to digital.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012

Thoughts on how to brief a copywriter: Why should I care?

Do you find it hard to brief  a copywriter? Do you worry that you give them too much information or not enough? It's important to get it right because the better the briefing, the better the copy. Miriam Young, an English copywriter in the Netherlands, offers some advice on how to get the best from your copywriter. 

Miriam is an English copywriter based in the Netherlands
Letting a good freelance copywriter loose on your advertising and marketing materials can be like waving a magic wand over your promotion strategy. Throw your marketing wishes into the air and watch as we transform them into profit-inducing communication. But the quality of what we can produce depends on how well we are briefed to begin with.

Briefing a copywriter incorporates many different aspects. From describing the marketing materials you want to create and defining the people you want to reach through to explaining what the product or service you’re promoting is and what you want your marketing materials to achieve. Oh and let’s not forget.....what it is that sets you apart from your competitors.

Does any of this seem too obvious to be worth going into detail about? Not if you want to get the best out of your copywriter.

Can you make a space alien care?
To brief a copywriter, imagine you are explaining your proposition to a just-landed space alien (that happens to understand Earth languages). No, I’m not suggesting copywriters are a different species. But if we’re to successfully convince others about your message, we first need to ensure it really does make sense. From a true outsider’s point of view. And when you’ve poured your heart out about your wonderful business and its products, we’re going to put ourselves in your customers’ shoes and ask “Why should I care?”

Why should I care about that special feature? Why should I care how long you’ve been in business? Why should I care how many employees you have? Why should I care that you’ve got a new range coming out this year?

You see it’s all very well to spout facts and figures. But if you want to win the hearts, minds and custom of all your potential clients, you need to make a clear connection between everything you want to say and how it makes their lives better. As copywriters, we can communicate this like you would believe. If you can tell us why you’re worth it, we’ll convince the world.

The magic formula
What exactly do you want me to tell you, I hear you cry? Most agencies and some copywriters have a fixed set of questions. I’ve listed a few food-for-thought items at the bottom of this article. This is far from exhaustive and the line of questioning needs to be developed organically to discover the individual qualities of every different business. But it is a good starting point. Try it. Can you give answers that convince a true outsider to understand and buy into your proposition?

Know your FABs
The perfect way to explore the relevance to others of the things you think are important is to put them through the FAB test.
F=Feature = something you want to mention about your product or company
A=Advantage = what advantage this offers
B=Benefit = how this benefits the customer

For example
Feature = Business has been operating for 25 years
Advantage = The business has amassed plenty of experience
Benefit = I feel confident that these people know what they’re doing and can trust them to deliver on their promises.
Feature = this phaser has a safety lock
Advantage = it won’t go off when the user isn’t expecting it to
Benefit = I won’t kill or stun anybody I don’t mean to. Including myself. That would be both inconvenient and embarrassing.

Hopefully you get the picture.

FABs are key to selling your proposition. The more FABs you can share with your copywriter, the better the job they can do for you. No cheating though.....if it’s not logical enough for Spock, it doesn’t count. And yes, human emotions are valid benefits.

Getting the best value
Copywriters have to be paid for their time. Every minute of it that’s devoted to thinking about your project. If your copywriter is working with you to discover your best marketing qualities it’s all money well spent. But if you want to keep your costs to a minimum, make sure you’ve thought your brief through properly. The more completely and concisely you brief your copywriter to begin with, the less time they have to spend on defining and refining your story. So come prepared by asking yourself “Why should I care?”

How well can you describe your products? How well do you know your customers and meet their needs?  Could you convince a just-landed space alien to choose you over your competitors?

Know your products
What are you trying to sell?
How are your products different from your competitors’?

Know your customers
Who are your customers?
What customer needs do you meet?
How do you fulfil these needs differently from your competitors?
What keywords or phrases would customers for your products enter into an online search?

Know your image
What are your company values?
How do these enhance the desirability of your products?

Know your promotional strategy
How do you already promote yourself? How do you want that to change?
What materials do you want to create? What purpose will they serve? How will they be distributed?

Know your follow up
What do you want customers to do as a result of reading your new marketing material?

About the author:
Miriam Young (Personal website / Collective portfolio) is available for copywriting, content strategy, editing, Dutch to English translation and other associated marketing related activitiesShe has many years' of international experience in marketing, sales and PR (and first-rate English language skills) and is a copywriter for both online and offline. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Round-table discussion or charity work

Dear freelancers, we have narrowed our anniversary celebration ideas down to two... we could do one or both depending on you. What are your thoughts? Would you participate in either?

OPTION A: Round-table discussion 
Fraser suggested a round-table event at De Kring in Amsterdam to discuss. 'What do agencies look for from freelancers and freelance agencies, and what are the industry trends in using freelancers?' The initial idea was for it to be one of those discussions that appears in print, in Adformatie and other magazines, but this might be difficult as the magazine is a lot smaller now. We could even expand it to a day with more than one round-table, a freelancing seminar day. If we had enough interest and participants. Are you interested in being on the panels or attending? What would you like to discuss or learn more about?

OPTION B: Charity work 
We wrote this article about free freelancing for charities. A 10 year anniversary special idea would be 10 freelancers volunteering 10 hours (or more) free for charity. Could you volunteer your time? We would promote you online and in press releases with your skills and portfolio, so you get publicity as well as good karma.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

10 years with the best English copywriters

The Collective is proud to announce that we have now reached our 10th anniversary. We started out exclusively representing English creatives, but as we grew internationally, so did our nationalities. Now we boast 110 of the best creative freelancers from across Europe… copywriters, art directors, designers, online specialists and transcreators... you can find them all with The Collective.

We’ll be celebrating our anniversary year by focusing each newsletter on one of the 10 different specialties in our portfolio of creatives. This month it’s the turn of English copywriting, the discipline that has been our core business since the beginning.

Native-English copywriters
Here are 10 benefits of using a native-English copywriter through The Collective:
1. Quality is what counts… you can’t afford any mistakes when hiring a freelancer. We have agency-experienced copywriters who you can trust to get your brief right the first time.
2. Specialist writers… from healthcare to financial. Whatever your client’s discipline, we have a specialist with experience of writing for it.
3. Copy or concepts… whether you need a conceptual copywriter for an ad campaign or a long copy writer for a brochure or a website, we have experienced experts in all areas.
4. English copywriters that speak your language… our copywriters are based across Europe and many speak the local language so can do transcreation from that language into English.
5. Go native... copywriters should only do copywriting in their native language. Don’t be tempted to get English copy written by a non-native speaker… the results speak for themselves.
6. Tried and tested… we have been using the same core of copywriters for the last 10 years and they provide a service that can be trusted for quality, creativity and timing.
7. Portfolio vs personality… we only represent nice people. This might sound strange, but you can’t judge how a freelancer is to work with from the portfolio alone. How they are to work with is just as important.
8. Onsite without the flight… We have copywriters in most of the major cities and they can work onsite in your office at short notice, often without the costs of a flight or a hotel
9. Service at speed… we know the deadline for copy is usually yesterday, so we offer a fast service, searching our network to find the copywriter who can deliver the quickest. 10. We do the leg work… for you to call around and find the right copywriter, who’s available now, takes up a lot of your valuable time. Let us take the strain and leave you free to do your job.

When you need an English copywriter, think of The Collective.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012


Happy New Year everyone!
We hope you had a wonderful Christmas and New Year celebration.
It's back to work now here in Holland and there are jobs coming in already.
Let's hope it's a great year for everyone!

The Collective Team.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Wishes!

Merry Christmas everyone!!! Buon Natale! Vrolijk Kerstfeest! Joyeux Noel! Froehliche Weihnachten! Gledileg Jol! Gajan Kristnaskon! Vesele Vanoce! Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan!.... ah you get the idea.
We hope you have a lovely relaxing time with you family, and failing that, a lot to drink!
See you next year.

The Collective Team.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

On the beach or in the office?

Last week we sent an email to our clients (Rain not Spain) to inform them that The Collective is open for business all summer long.

To help us to help our clients, please let us know if you have any holiday plans.
And wherever you are, you can follow our summer headlines campaign on Twitter or Facebook!

The Collective Team.

Monday, March 28, 2011


Dear All,

We are pleased to announce, that recently we have opened a Facebook Page!
Check it!

The Collective Team.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Jack Stafford show

Jack Stafford, Collective founder, is having a concert to mark the closing of his suit shop and his last show before a 4-month tour of New Zealand and Australia. You are all welcome to attend. It's the last gathering at Vijzelstraat 67 before The Collective move. Saturday 12th February. 8 until late. Show at 10pm. Bring your own drinks. Friends are welcome!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Breaking News!

Dear Freelancers!

On the 24th of February, The Collective will be moving to our new office at:
Keizersgracht 205, 1016 DS Amsterdam.
On the 24th itself and afterwards you can still reach us on the same phone number as now:
020-320 5319.
The invitation for a drink will follow soon!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Kinky Christmas Album

Dear freelancers,

Do you like to listen to the Kinks'?
Listen to Jack and his new cover album!
Once again... Have a lovely Christmas!

The Collective Team.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Happy holidays from The Collective team!

Dear Creatives,

We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2011!

Jack, Justyna, Sandra & Wilma.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Network Drinks

You are invited on the upcoming networking drinks on Thursday 30th of September at DuintjerCS building, Vijzelstraat 72, 7th floor. Jack Stafford will perform as troubadour at the next DOMIBO drinks, organised by Carmen Flagiello. The theme is DuintjerCS meets de buurt/de buurt meets DuintjerCS. Please join us from 18:00.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Amsterdam goes World Cup crazy!

On Amsterdam's Museumplein, 80,000 people celebrated as the
Netherlands beat Uruguay in the World Cup semi-final. Click on
heading to share the joy.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Collective Drinks Thursday, the 1st of July 2010

The next Collective networking drinks will be held on Thursday 1 july at our usual location in the shop “The Jack Stafford Collection” (beneath our office) at Vijzelstraat 67. Please join us from 18:00.


One of our clients is looking for a Design Manager.

Reporting to the Head of Corporate Branding, the successful candidate will be an experienced, highly motivated, individual with a strong track record in corporate design management and will play a pivotal role in providing creative direction to the development of clients brand identity. As well as managing a budget for the product area, the post holder will be responsible for managing products through from initial concept to artwork, while ensuring that levels of quality and innovation are maintained.

Main responsibilities
* Develop and produce concepts, designs, and art direction for corporate projects
* Deliver practical, hands-on, design for a wide variety communication materials (annual reports, corporate magazine, events and other applications)
* Devise creative strategies and direction for design management
* Co-develop, manage, implement and monitor global visual identity guidelines
* Set-up a brand/design portal throughout the whole company
* Manage freelancers, printers and design agencies

Minimum requirements
* Excellent portfolio demonstrating in-depth experience and ability to manage, develop and monitor corporate identity/company house style and relevant guidelines at corporate and product level
* Proven design management and skills
* Superior hands-on design skills and creativity
* Ability to work on own initiative, thrive in a dynamic and high performance environment and deal effectively with deadline pressure
* Highly proficient in using Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator
* Experience with print coordination and purchase negotiations
* A team player with a clear understanding of the role, position and boundaries of design in a corporate environment
* Job ratio is 65% design activities and 35% management activities

About client
Headquartered in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, they are a Global Fortune 500 company and are consistently ranked as one of the leaders on the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes. With operations in more than 80 countries, our 55,000 people around the world are committed to excellence and delivering Tomorrow's Answers Today(tm).

If you are interested in this permanent job, please contact sandra@thecollective or wilma@thecollective.net.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Collective Drinks Thursday, the 25th of March 2010

The Collective would appreciate it if you could r.s.v.p to Caitlyn de Wild at; caitlyn@thecollective.net by the 18th of March 2010. We look forward to seeing you all there on the 25th of March 2010.

Friday, February 05, 2010


As you know, we have a shop underneath our office and we are looking to put it to more use. We are open to suggestions, ideas and co-ventures. Maybe you have something we can sell in the shop, hang in it, launch in it or just exhibit. If so, please get in touch.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Congrats to Miriam Young for completing the New York City Marathon

Proving she’s got the stamina and commitment needed for long-haul projects, copywriter Miriam Young ran the New York City Marathon on the 1st of November 2009, finishing in 5 hours 32 minutes. “Not a bad first attempt for the girl who used to take taxis between pubs!”

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Golden Age postponed


Our Return To The Golden Age party was
due to take place on September 24th.

But we have had to rearrange it.

The party will now take place on October 15th.

We look forward to seeing you there.

The Collective