Jason Culbertson, AgencyScoop.com

Wednesday, November 18 by Juliette Wolf-Robin, ADBASE

Posted in: Industry Interviews

Juliette Wolf-Robin meets Jason Culbertson, the New York-based founder of AgencyScoop.com. Jason calls himself an art director, a strategist, an entrepreneur and an evangelist. He has worked as a creative at top ad agencies, including Atmosphere BBDO and Dentsu NY. Less than a year ago, Jason launched AgencyScoop.com, a social media website exclusively for advertising professionals to connect with peers and showcase their work. The site currently boasts 25,000 users from all over the world.

In this interview Jason discusses:

  • How AgencyScoop.com helps connect ad agency art buyers with photographers, designers and illustrators
  • How AgencyScoop complements, rather than competes, with Facebook and LinkedIn
  • How members use the social media site for job searches

Interview Transcript

This is an edited transcript of Juliette Wolf-Robin's interview with Jason Culbertson, founder, AgencyScoop.com

Juliette Wolf-Robin:

Since I'm not that familiar with AgencyScoop maybe you could start by telling me about it and what you're doing with it.

Jason Culbertson:

I'll give you a little background. I launched AgencyScoop about a year ago just as a site that filled a need that I saw in the industry, which is, we all have our Facebook account and our LinkedIn account. But there was nothing that sort of bridged that gap... a social network that can be specific to the advertising industry and the people that are involved in that industry.

And something that people could also utilize to connect with, in that industry. For instance, uploading their portfolios. LinkedIn is literally just your resume online. With AgencyScoop, my idea was, "Let's go beyond that." Let's provide information about the industry, and also ways where people could show their work and share it with each other inside a network.

It launched a year ago. I spread it via word of mouth only, to about 200 people I knew. I guess it's only been about nine months since that time. It now has about 25,000 users [from] all over the world. The purpose of it really is similar to a place like LinkedIn: where [we] in this industry can connect to one another, share our work with one another, see what's happening in terms of where we're working now or moving to, that sort of thing.

In the future, it's going to be moving closer to a site that also provides insight into the industry, such as talks with industry leaders in different areas, facts and news about things that are happening. So it's moving toward a site that's going to provide a lot more information, and hopefully it will become something that's incredibly useful to people.

Juliette:

Is it meant for the creatives in the industry or anybody who works in advertising?

Jason:

You know, originally it was started for creatives in the industry, but as it grew I realized, or found out, that about 50 per cent of the people were on the creative side and 50 per cent were more on the account management side. So, at this point, it's built for everyone because I feel like no matter what area you work in, what facet or role you are in the industry, when you work with people in this industry and things move so quickly and people move jobs all the time, you want to keep in touch with them, regardless if you're on the account side, the creative side, wherever it may be.

As well, there's a large percentage of people who are photographers, graphic designers, illustrators who are utilizing the site to connect with reps or people that they've worked with in the past.

Juliette:

Do you have to have a portfolio to put on the site, or can you join without one?

Jason:

No, you can join without one, but ideally if you have a portfolio, it will be one that you want to share on the site. Right now, literally today, we started a redesign... a portfolio site to make it much more competitive with some of the existing sites that are out there and really polish it to a level I think people will be much more interested in uploading their work to, and share it amongst this community.

Juliette:

Do art directors want to share their work? The stuff that they've done, do they want other people to see it?

Jason:

Well, definitely. If the goal of the site is really to provide a way for people to better their careers, then you're going to want to share your work. Whether you're an illustrator or a photographer or an art director or a copywriter, you're going to want to share your work with as many people as possible. That way, when opportunities arise, someone can remember you, be connected to you, and think of you first.

Juliette:

What are some of the other ways that they use the site?

Jason:

There's blogging capability on the site, so that some people are sharing insights into the industry via the blog. There are groups that exist where people are connecting specifically with organizations that are around advertising like One Club. There are events on the site that people are putting up and sharing.

All of those areas are in the process of being expanded. I mean this is a site that I didn't know what was going to happen when I started it. Now that it's become a success, it's like OK, what can we do to catch up...

Juliette:

Right. What's next?

Jason:

...bring content to it that people are going to really care about and get excited about and utilize the site more.

Juliette:

Do you find that most of the people who are on that site also are on LinkedIn and Facebook?

Jason:

Yeah, definitely. And that's one thing that I'm changing right now as well. I don't look at LinkedIn or Facebook as competition because I'm not going to be able to compete with them, number one, they're so huge. But also, AgencyScoop is a different sort of service. I think it coincides with those [but] I don't want to be a site like Facebook where it's about friendship and finding out what your friends did last night or uploading pictures that are personal.

At the same time I don't want to compete with LinkedIn where it's about I want to have my resume posted online somewhere. This is really about something more engaging than LinkedIn, but not to the personal level of a Facebook. What we're doing is literally letting people connect to Facebook and connect to LinkedIn on the site. That's in process right now, so anytime they do something on our site, it's going to be sharable onto those sites.

Juliette:

What are some of the ways that you think people should be using the site?

Jason:

I think that as the site goes forward, the thing right now that people use the site mostly for are portfolios and for job searching. We get a lot of job posts on there. Right now it's a free service on the site, and it's a really good functionality for the search itself.

Juliette:

So somebody looking for a job or who has a job?

Jason:

Yeah, somebody looking for a job, posting a job, somebody wanting to post their portfolio work or someone looking for talent, but...

Juliette:

Do you find it similar to what you might find on Media Bistro or the AdAge site, or other sites within the industry?

Jason:

I think so. I think there's some similarity to a lot of different sites, but the difference is that, because this is a network environment, a social network, it provides a level of value that's above and beyond a lot of other sites, even a Behance sort of site that a lot of artists put their work on. If we have something that is competitive to Behance in terms of the ability of the portfolio and the way your work is being displayed, adding the social networking feature and the fact that we have so many people involved on the site, it just takes it to the next level.

Adding to that is the ability that when you upload something to your portfolio, or add a new portfolio, you're going to be able to share that with everybody on your Facebook wall who you're connected to. Automatically. We're just bringing this value to it where, literally, the idea is "get my work out as much as possible to the entire industry." And when looking for work, this is the place I need to go. So it's sort of like a chicken and an egg scenario where, when you bring the people in, then you have more people interested in posting jobs. When you post more jobs, you have more people interested in being part of the network.

Juliette:

Do you find that that part of the industry wants to be interactive with each other? That creative...

Jason:

Oh, definitely. I think that one of the reasons why this has succeeded so well, and I mentioned it was completely viral, is that everybody always says it's such a small industry. Everywhere I've worked, you always run into people that you've worked with in the past, or people that they've worked with somewhere else. It's an industry where, I think, who you know is as important as how good your work is. I think anybody can attest to that. So I think that having a community where people are connecting with each other - and it's specific to this niche industry - really provides value to people. And they find it to be incredibly exciting to them.

Juliette:

And what about Twitter? Do you find that our industry is using that or not?

Jason:

I think the industry is using Twitter quite a bit actually. In fact ... I have a Facebook fan page and a Twitter account that I repost every job posting to. I have over 1,000 followers right now on both of those.

Juliette:

Do you find creatives would want to follow artists like photographers and illustrators on Twitter? Or are they more following each other?

Jason:

I think they follow news that's happening.

Juliette:

OK.

Jason:

I think that that is the value of Twitter. I've read articles about the fact that teens don't use Twitter. I think a lot of the reason is that ... people who are in the working world use Twitter as a way to quickly get information. I can sign up to particular people who I know are going to continue to update me on things that are happening, send me links about new work that's going on, or new sites that have launched, or facts that are happening, people changing jobs, that sort of thing.

That's really helpful to me because I don't have to go to a bunch of different sites to find that information. I can just have it come into my Twitter feed, and I don't have to go to a dozen different sites to get it. So in that sense Twitter is, I think, for the advertising industry, very helpful.

Juliette:

Tell me about Ad Gig Awards.

Jason:

Oh, the Big Ad Gigs! Big Ad Gig Awards. That was an award show that hopefully will continue. It was started at the last agency I worked at, which was Atmosphere BBDO. Basically, what we did was come up with the concept that in the economic times we have right now, people are trying to break into this industry. It's already hard enough as it is, but right now the way the economy is, it's incredibly difficult to break in as a creative into the advertising industry.

So we wanted to provide internships at different agencies that would sort of [help] young creatives get their foot into the door, and potentially open them up to a full-time gig after that. So what we did was you had to apply online. You had to actually create a creative YouTube video declaring that you deserved an advertising job, in a creative way. Then we selected eight people. They came to a competition, they had a brief that they got a week before, and they had to come up with work based on that brief.

The agencies involved were Ogilvy, Saatchi, Crispin, and the agency that I was at - Atmosphere BBDO. They picked four winners out of that, and those people got to work for a month of paid internship at those places.

Juliette:

That's great.

Jason:

It was fantastic. Yeah. It was really cool to be a part of, and the people who were involved were very excited. Microsoft also came on board and they helped get the word out about the competition. They did some advertising for it, and all the competitors got free XBoxes. One winner actually is getting their work produced and posted onto Microsoft, into their various advertising channels. The project came from the American Advertising Federation, the AAF. It had to do with heart disease... CPR.

It all tied in really well together. This was an actual project that they needed to have completed. So ... four people got selected, but then one person ultimately got that work actually produced, which is fantastic for somebody trying to break into the industry.

Juliette:

Do you think our industry is interested in social events, where people actually meet face-to-face? Or is it all happening online now?

Jason:

I think that's a good question because there's this misnomer that social media is keeping people from meeting face-to-face. But really I think that social media actually just provides us the opportunity to connect with one another. And since joining different social media sites, I'm more privy to tons of events that are going on that I never knew of before. Because now I'm getting all these invites from all these different people I'm connected to for this and that happening all the time.

That's all about face-to-face engagement. So really, I think what social media does is initially connect you to somebody, and then where possible, it leads you to having a face-to-face connection with them.

Juliette:

Or, if you go to an event, you feel like you already know this person because you've been following them.

Jason:

Yeah, exactly. I've met people like that in the past, too, where I've connected to them on Facebook or LinkedIn. I've never met them in my life, and I see them somewhere. And I feel like...

Juliette:

I know you.

Jason:

I know them a little bit. I'm like, "Oh, I recognize you. I'm connected to you here, and I know a little bit about you. I know where you work," that sort of thing. So it sort of opens the door a little bit in terms of being able to, in person, connect with somebody.

Juliette:

Do you follow the blogs or newsletters that people send out?

Jason:

I'm not really a good person for that because, honestly, I don't have the time to get too wrapped up in following too many things.

Juliette:

So the short bursts of quick information are the best.

Jason:

For me, Twitter is the best thing because I can get it really, really quick. Before that, I used to follow certain sites that had similar functionality, had the news feed going on. But once [Twitter] came about, it just made it so much easier for me because I could have it running in the background on my computer. I could be working and if something interests me, I click on it.

Juliette:

Do you look at print trade magazines at all?

Jason:

I've got to say not as much as I used to. I think it spells trouble for some of those companies. I think they're already seeing it. I've actually read something about this, too, that the sourcing of the news is now more in the hands of the people versus the institutions. And I think that's...

Juliette:

And that was something you read online, right?

Jason:

I read it online. Exactly! So I think that it's going to be an issue. They've got to figure out how to make that, sort of, change hands. But I think that if some of these publications, instead of fighting against that system... I think that a lot of them already are leading people to developing online presences that can, not compete with, but work with...

Juliette:

Be more dynamic.

Jason:

Yeah. Work with their print publications and then also work with Twitter and things like that. So they really engage people. Because people no longer are going to be spending the time going to, like, Creativity.com. They're just going to figure out what other people are posting and then they'll just go straight to those sources versus spending their time going to a bunch of different websites. Because honestly, it's like the more information that's out there, the less time people have to spend perusing various websites.

Juliette:

Is there anything else that you see missing from social media?

Jason:

Not really missing from social media... but I know that social media is going to continue to evolve. I actually saw that Facebook is doing an interesting thing where they were talking yesterday about the next phase of their development. It's going to be taking their Facebook functionality and giving corporate clients the ability to bring that functionality to their site.

They gave the example of Coca-Cola. If you go to the Coca-Cola site, you'll literally be able to have a Facebook-like experience on Coca-Cola.com, instead of just the classic Facebook connect button. I think the next phase of social media is going to be branching out of the social sites that exist, and you're going to see it living outside of that.

You already see stuff where [for example] TV manufacturers are including Twitter and Facebook in the control panel menu screens of TVs. I don't know if you've seen that before. But it's interesting, the idea that I'm watching TV and literally I'll be able to chat on my Facebook at the same time.

Juliette:

Wow.

Jason:

So it's spreading outside the Internet, and I think you'll see more and more of that.

Juliette:

So we need to jump in now and get a hold of it, right?

Jason:

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. It's already going to be getting away. It's a matter of just trying to hold onto it.

Juliette:

Great! Well, thank you very much for your time.

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