Now’s The ‘Perfect Time’ To Launch A Start-up, Says Publicist CEO Lara Vandenberg

Lara Vandenberg launches talent marketplace Publicist | PR Week

By Mike Canavan

Whilst indeed we wish Ms. Vandenderg all the very best with her new online marketing venture “Publicist”, one has to wonder why this service has become an opportunity, but more importantly who is responsible for allowing it to ever have occurred. What she proposes is to offer creative talent to the marketplace and clients in direct relationships, by by-passing the traditional Client-Agency relationship arrangements.

I can never remember a time when being an Executive Creative Director of an Advertising Agency was such a precarious or endangered species. The whole notion of a freelance independent team stepping in with no knowledge of the client’s history, protocol, learnings and watchouts could only be described as an anathema. In a bygone time, it would take years to understand the client’s market, product and competitors. Agencies used to understand distribution channels, supplier’s demand’s and consumer watchouts. Perhaps this doesn’t matter anymore?

A general canvas of the online advertising magazine world reveals an alarming trend that is sweeping the industry at a rate greater than the Coronavirus pandemic. It seems the procedure is; get rid of the top creative talent – cost cutting at its most inept and replace them with younger less costly staff.

What the Neanderthal management have not yet twigged to is that their top creative resources should be the engine room that drives the profit of the entire business model. Should they wish to save some real money; dispense with those non-essential services that provide no revenue stream and justify their lofty positions by delivering inept and meaningless advice. If you’re wondering who I am speaking about, have a good look around at the HR, Accounts, and Legal departments of these monoliths.

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The new paradigm works on the younger inexperienced cheaper creative resources hopping to God they can understand or indeed develop a suitable answer to the briefs in hand. The prospect is terrifying. Multimillion-dollar budgets being put in the hands of inexperienced youngsters – fresh out of whatever quasi- creative college that offered them an opportunity of stardom in the advertising A league. It beggars belief, that clients are prepared to put up with such shameful treatment. With the downward pressure on all creative budgets that exists today, surely to God it makes sense that those with the most experience and greatest skill should be called upon to step up during these extremely difficult times. But no; it would appear that the agency hierarchy’s only commitment is to their own bottom line, not their Client’s needs.

It is sadly yet another example of the apparent irreconcilable breakdown in the relationship between the advertising agency and its Client base. It would on the surface appear that trust is something of an issue from a bygone era.

The new online marketplace for the world’s top communications and marketing talent has launched this week, with Lara Vandenberg defying the COVID-19 pandemic to launch what she describes as the go-to platform for freelance media and marketing professionals. Speaking to the media at large, Ms Vandenberg – who is based in New York and was born in Sydney – said that “Publicist” site launched in the US earlier this year and was now ready to take on the Australian market. She said despite what you may assume, now is the perfect time to launch a start-up. “The future of work was always going to happen, but it’s here now… ..project-based work has now really picked up, particularly in the marketing industry where brands are downsizing their marketing teams and their retainers.”

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According to the executive, about 2000 freelancers currently use Publicist and it‘s being used by all sizes of companies, from large enterprises to small start-ups. Freelancers on the platform have over 300 skills including content creation, PR and media relations, internal relations, crisis communications and digital marketing.

She said more companies now are better served by flexible support than retainer-based models and more brands are continuing to rethink their internal PR and communications services.

“Typically, recruiters or agencies outsource projects to talent and often upcharge on the project. For talent, it’s also difficult to focus on current work, in addition to pitching on new business, while managing administration like invoicing,” she said. “With “Publicist”, all of this can happen on our secure and flexible platform.

“The way the industry is going, brands now are educated to understand there are so many diverse services out there available that you don‘t need to spend on everything and everyone all the time; PR and marketing professionals are getting smarter around how to spend their budgets.”

“I would point anyone in this direction, because I strongly believe in project-based communications and marketing work, and many industries are going in this direction.”

Ms Vandenberg, who was previously named in the US Forbes 30 Under 30 List and has been accepted to Stanford’s tech accelerator program, has received venture capital funding for her start-up and is next eyeing the UK as a third launch market.

“We can see the demand is there, and from the get-go in the US we’ve had great numbers both on the supply and the demand side,” she said. “We’re really excited to see how this goes in 2021 and beyond, and we’re launching an enterprise solution for much bigger brands next year as well.

“We want to be the platform where people hire for communications and marketing and manage their workflow in which they do so.”

Only time will tell whether or not her company succeeds, but you can be absolutely certain that is yet another nail in the Coffin of the Advertising Agency system as it has existed for the past 150 years. The most important question to be asked is why did they ever let this happen?

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