The commodifiers

Some meandering thoughts on creating value and spotting the commodity game for what it s.

Refuse the race to the bottom

Wes Kennison

By Wes Kennison

3 min read

This is gonna ruffle some feathers.

Some creatives are naturally gifted at the craft of merging art and commerce to meet a business need for hire (I would argue that this is the actual art that we’re practicing as commercial creatives). Within this cohort however, there lies a charlatan set. A clown troop in creatives clothing, if you will. We’ll call them the commodifiers, and they’re ready to race to the bottom if you play along.

This article will share a headspace that identifies the commodity content hustle for what it is, so you can more readily call it out when you see it, and opt out if asked to play along.

Even before I became aware of the existing thinking around the term “commodity content”, I was aware that it wasn’t a game I would be well served to play. Commodity content is endemic of letting the Finance department play an outsize role in production decisions, and to borrow from the article linked above, “commodity content happens when you focus on the algorithm, instead of the people”. The commodifier doesn’t actually value what they’re making (and are charging clients for), their end game is the dollars. And I’d bet some dollars of my own that the client experience, team morale, and work product itself suffer as a result.

This isn’t some punk rock anthem where I accuse anyone of selling out to the corporate ladder or that the commodifiers are practicing a less pure, less precious version of the commercial arts than me. Quite the opposite in fact, I’m going to dance in the streets around the fact that I run a for profit business, and I’m going to make the bold claim that I’m better at the business part than anyone who lets profit motives alone drive decision making in a creative enterprise. Better because, for me and mine,

Profit isn’t the objective, Profit is the RESULT of a good idea well executed.

This is the essence of value creation in our business. It’s not complicated, or tricky, or in need of a 7 page website. It’s a simple and definitive framework separating the craftspeople from those who ride our coattails.

Whether it’s on a project to project level, or in the very idea behind the business itself, if we prioritize creating value through uniquely useful approaches that emanate from a place of sharp truth and well honed chops, we simply cannot lose.

This is the point that the commodifier misses. True value lies in seeing every business need we’re being asked to meet as deserving of a very unique approach. In the same league as micro management, the commodifier is addicted to projections, goals, objectives, and has zero problems leading with a position of expectation when talking to the team that’s actually making it happen. This is because the exit is the point for the commodifier. The product is just a means to get there instead of being the main event. Scale for scale’s sake is cool and all, but have you considered that maybe some businesses ought NOT scale in traditional ways? When you think about it, scale is something that can replace lack of innovation as a means to grow the business. “We offer the same thing as everyone else, but ahem, it’s our PEOPLE that make the difference….”

That’s right commodifiers, it’s possible to make a ton of money doing it for the sheer joy of meeting someone’s business need in a creative way, because that’s worth a lot of money in a market proliferated with vanilla flavored, limp handshake feelin' solutions. 

Let's hear those comments using the form below ::braces for impact::.

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