TRAILBLAZER: Creative Cupid

Online dating works for couples, so why not clients and agencies? Creativebrief's Tom Holmes tells Emily Booth how the net can streamline this matchmaking process just as well, writes Emily Booth.

Creativebrief is a global service that connects client firms with the most appropriate talent for their brief - from large agency networks and PR consultancies to TV presenters, film-makers and freelancers. A former Grey and Saatchi & Saatchi ad man himself, founder and chief executive Tom Holmes has assembled an impressive management team - including Geoff Howard-Spink, co-founder of ad agency Lowe Howard-Spink (now Lowe) as chairman, and Paul Duncanson, whose experience includes brands like Coca-Cola and Andrex, as sales and marketing director.

"The market has become fragmented and confusing, and with the plethora of media available you've got more and more specialists, but where do you find them?" asks Holmes. Cue creativebrief (www.creativebrief.com).

Personally funded by Holmes, its products include personal and corporate profiles, showcases of work, confidential search and questionnaire tools, and a global directory of talent. Clients can send their questionnaires to service providers in confidence or anonymously. The creativebrief team has even pooled every question they've ever been asked in a new business pitch to help less experienced clients pick the right supplier. "Clients want an objective mechanism that cuts through the clutter - they want to get to the right people with the right experience and see case studies that are appropriate to them," he explains.

On the agency side, creativebrief aims to offer more focused client enquiries, meaning time and cost savings. Service providers can update their showcases instantly, which cuts time spent in meetings, on the phone or travelling.

They can put filters on briefs; for example, receive enquiries only from car manufacturers that have budgets of £5 million.

Creativebrief looks to make money from subscriptions and added-value services. "We don't take any advertising, so there's no flashy things on the site; it's really straight-forward to use," says Holmes. Membership is £140 per year, with supplier showcases from £500 to £10,000, depending on the amount of content, case studies and video-streaming. The student product, which includes a profile and one-page showcase, starts at £50 for six months (£90 per year), and aims to provide a simple way of reviewing new talent.

Since its launch at the end of October, 165 clients have become password holders, including Boots, GlaxoSmithKline and Warner Brothers, and 65 suppliers have signed up. Holmes reckons he's got a potential 650,000 clients worldwide to tap into. Plus he's working with a database of 6,000 service providers. "We're not a brokerage - they are about third-party subjectivity," he says. "This is a business tool. It's objective in that clients can interact with service providers directly. It's global, offers value and speed, and it's live. We have interactive tools - online questionnaires and briefcases - for both parties to manage the process."

Currently, the service features a newsfeed from media and marketing news site Ammo (www.ammo.co.uk) and links from the home page to other news sources. "The reason is that it's a global business tool and we want to be seen as being serious from the start," explains Holmes. In future he'd like to make the newsfeeds more market specific, so he is looking at partners to provide this. He also sees sub-brands of creativebrief developing for different categories: "Our goal is to be the default desktop for the marketing community."

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