Creative Bravery Works For Marketers, Agencies: Q&A With Agency CFO

As the chief financial officer of Johannes Leonardo, a New York City-based ad agency, Bill Afonso’s focus on creative bravery may catch some by surprise. But he says for an agency to stand out and succeed, the entire team must hold responsibility for the work that goes out into the world.

Afonso will be speaking at the 2021 ANA Advertising & Financial Management Conference on June 27-30. Here is a preview.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

Q: Can you explain what it means to be creatively brave -- and why that approach is safer for businesses?

Being creatively brave means pushing the work and advocating for a strong POV with clients. Sometimes that can be over-investing in resources to see an idea you believe in go live. Or working with a client pro bono because you see a massive creative opportunity. Strategically making those bets often pans out and ends up elevating the entire business. 



Q: From a financial standpoint. what are some ways to approach measuring the value of creativity versus the cost of producing that creativity?

In our business, creativity is everyone’s responsibility. You cannot put a price on the value of good work. Naturally, the more work that we have, the healthier the P&L and balance sheets are.

In my job, you want to hedge as much as you can. So, a lot of what I am explaining is allocating what the value of creativity truly is. For example, when you look at a brief from a client, I help the teams make an assessment as we ask ourselves, “Do we believe in this creative opportunity?” 

Q: As in-house grows in popularity, what do you believe is the value for brands maintaining partnerships with third-party agencies?

Sometimes being an outsider to a brand allows us to speak to truths that might not be visible from the inside. We champion a single-point-lead model, which means we create a centralized and strategic approach where our agency acts as the lead, while ensuring integration throughout partner agencies, including with in-house teams. Expectations are aligned upfront, and everyone is clear about what they are expected to do to make a campaign great. Everyone is in a position to succeed because we’re playing to everyone’s strengths.

At the end of the day, for any project that we do there has to be a return. When we work with in-house agencies for our clients, our job is to take a look at the spend and work together to create synergy for our clients. This leads to a higher ROI on the marketing spend, and from the agency perspective: more work.

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