Innovation: Ad Agency Uses Crowdsourcing for New Business

Ad Agency will give the person who refers new business to them 10% of the first payment they receive (from $100 to $100,000 or more…)

Agency Nil Spotter Program


Ad agencies want to be known for their creativity. But lets face it, other than their creative product most aren’t. The majority follow the same traditional billable hours business model and the usual methods for generating agency new business.

When it comes to themselves, ad agencies aren’t very creative.

There’s a lot of frustration being voiced by agencies from the lack of client spending and new business opportunities. But rather than whining about the current state of affairs why not use some of your agency’s creativity for solutions and not wait for others to figure them out for you.

With a lack of creative examples, be the example!

I believe there is work out there for your agency. But I believe clients are looking for thought leaders, creative thinkers, who are demonstrating “genuine” outside-the-box thinking to their marketing challenges. 

Kuddos to Hank Leber,  recent graduate from VCU Brandcenter who founded Agency’s Nil, a full service ad agency with an extreme innovative business model that has already stirred some heated debate. Agency Nil has no physical location, no salaried staff and no set fees. they are channeling the skills of experienced but laid-off talents from the advertising industry and graduate students who are looking for their first job. Hank landed his first project 90 minutes after going live. 

Hanks’ agency has been generating lots of buzz such as this online article by InventorSpot:

Agency Nil is an advertising agency with no set prices for freelance branding, media and advertising services. They do the work, and then their clients can pay them whatever they want. In order to get started, prospective clients are asked to submit a work request form outlining the scope of the project. Agency Nil will then assign an advertising professional to get the job done, and once it’s completed by the requested deadline, the client can look over the work and set their price.

Of course, clients do have the option to pay nothing (except for the previously agreed upon fees for travel, production, and research tools); however, according to Agency Nil executives, if that happens, they’re not likely to take your business again. They do claim, however, that this has never happened, and that business is booming because this fee structure better caters to the supply and demand format dictated by the financial crisis. I would be surprised if they’re making more money off of their clients, who feel a sense of generosity in knowing that the work was done well, even when Agency Nil didn’t know what they were working for monetarily.”

The agency already has lots of detractors, mostly from other agencies who continue to do things in the same “traditional” way. There’s very little if any negativity coming from the client side.

Agency Nil is also being very innovative in their approach to agency new business. With all of the new work that has been generated they had to find a way to keep their new business pipeline full. They came up with a simple innovative solution, they would crowd sourcing to find new business.

BBH Labs recently highlighted the agency’s new business solution in an article titled: Crowdsourcing Clients – Where Agency Nil Went Next

“If a person connects Agency Nil with a business that would be interested in our services and they become a client within a year, Agency Nil will give the person who refers them 10% of the first payment they receive (from $100 to $100,000 or more…).  This person is called an Agency Nil Spotter.  All it takes to become one is an email to Agency Nil introducing the potential client (with the client cc’d, of course). Then the Spotter’s referral is documented.  When Agency Nil get paid, the Spotter gets paid. Simple.”

If you want to sign-up as an Agency Nil Spotter, send an email to

I loved this comment to the post, “What Agency Nil is doing is pulling back the the sling and being the first “extreme” to shoot the rock at the Goliath”. You have to admire them. 

This is the greatest period of opportunity for small-to mid-size ad agencies in our lifetime. Clients are screaming for innovation and creativity. Give it to them! 

Don’t be afraid of criticism. If you try anything new, it will come. But its going to come by way of your competitors, not your prospective clients. What do you have to lose?

Additional articles on Agency Nil:



About Michael Gass

Consultant | Trainer | Author | Speaker

Since 2007, he has been pioneering the use of social media, inbound and content marketing strategies specifically for agency new business.

He is the founder of Fuel Lines Business Development, LLC, a firm which provides business development training and consulting services to advertising, digital, media and PR agencies.


  1. Thanks for the mention. We really appreciate all the support.

    Agency Nil

  2. What’s really going to be interesting is how this model evolves for them. Would love to see a follow-up post/update on this in several months Michael.

  3. Agency Nil has promised to keep me updated with regards to their new business progress. But even at this early stage I’m glad to see some innovation and creativity among agencies with regards to their new business.

  4. I think this is an awesome way to not only reinvigorate the marketing agency model, but also a way to bring light to the importance of listening to clients rather than telling clients. As consumers become more and more empowered in knowledge and options (especially due to the proliferation of online resources), marketers need to bring something innovative to the table. Transparency and open-mindedness are definitely welcome in this market.
    It is really neat to see how many different types of businesses are adopting crowdsourcing outside of software development. Here at Fandom, we are tapping into crowdsourcing for a feature film. I even heard Channel 4 in the UK opening up their shows for directional input from the audiences. This is an exciting time to be embracing crowdsourcing as new business model!

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