Working With a Startup -- Nine Things Advertisers and Agencies Should Consider -- AJ Vernet

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Hey everyone, man it’s good to be back! I’ve taken a little hiatus from this blog after our company Republic Project joined Sizmek (formerly DG MediaMind) – a hugely exciting development that’s taken our team through the not-so-little steps of a global integration. Joining a company with the size and scale of Sizmek (seismic!) has opened a lot of doors that were previously shut for Republic Project. One big lesson for us has been figuring out that advertisers seem to feel better about working with familiar entities rather than a smaller startup shop. 

With this so fresh in my mind, here are a few thoughts on what agencies and advertisers should consider on the path to working with a bustling, cutting-edge startup.

  • 1. Simple and sweet: All good ideas come from a deep well of brainstorming, but they take time to surface. And implementing new ideas doesn’t happen overnight (maybe, over two nights).
  • 2. Slow down. Agencies should take the time to learn as much about the company they want to work with before pulling the trigger. Ask a lot of questions! A fruitful back-and-forth can result in even better ideas hitting the table. Don’t force an idea into a system that can’t produce the desired results for a client. Big no-no.
  • 3. Agencies, give startups a good education on who you are, how you work and your expectations around a given campaign. When they first pop up on the scene, startups are just coming out of product development mode. Rarely is anything going to be perfect when you’re in beta-testing mode. Help them understand the landscape of an agency – and how to best maneuver inside of it.
  • 4. Introduce your startups to allof the partners they will be working with. A little intro goes a long way.
  • 5. Take the startup through the production and campaign delivery process once, twice, maybe even three times. Walking through potential scenarios is the best way to weed out any pending hiccups.
  • 6. Be flexible on your T&C. Startups typically don’t have the legal process ironed out, or even the money to spend on it. Keep in mind that a huge document can cost more in legal fees than the profit!
  • 7. Designate a point person within your agency as an internal liaison for the startup. Typically, the biz dev or innovations guys initially bring the startup in, and once everything is signed off, it’s over to the media and operations teams. This transition is where everything can go wrong – set expectations accordingly, and take the time to communicate internally.
  • 8. Cash flow – startups would love it, but they simply don’t have the dollars of a large company yet. Be flexible with payment terms, and set payment terms throughout the various stages of the campaign process.
  • 9. Ultimately, reaching success means a lot of re’s: regroup, re-tweak, and if all else fails, try, try, again.

At the end of the day a good idea is a good idea. If you feel good about something do it. Just so you know we don’t turn down good ideas at RP, and my team’s motto always seems to be, “Find and way or Make a way!”

AJ Vernet is Founder and CEO of Republic Project, a Sizmek Company. Republic is a Los Angeles and New York based digital and video production company positioned to partner with agencies, creative firms, publishers and brands as a scalable and seamless production resource. AJ can be reached at

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