VFX artist Roger Bolton warns clients: "Agencies have been ripping you off blind on every job"

Screen shot 2013-02-04 at 9.42.15 AM.jpgOsaka-based Aussie expat VFX artist Roger Bolton, who has worked in Australia at The Moving Picture Company and Emerald City Design, and put the flames and reflection on the ring in the first Lord of the Rings film, has posted a stinging attack on ad agencies on his Facebook page, accusing them of ripping off clients and treating him like scum.

Says Bolton: "...with every single job I've done with an ad agency, I am treated like scum, pressured to deliver to impossible deadlines, have my work insulted and my ideas over-ridden by an overpaid agency creative director. Trying to deliver to these standards and getting 'fired' by an agency producer after working until 5am to deliver a job is one of the things that drove me to six months of depression last year.
"Fire your clients. Well I am firing the entire world of ad agencies. Ad agencies are already half obsolete. Nowadays a small Hybrid creative studio can deliver on both production and post production for most jobs. Clients please pay attention: Ad agencies have been ripping you off blind on every job. I have seen the way budgets are broken up by agencies, at least 50 percent going into the pockets of the agency partners which means less to spend on the actual execution, production and post. Ad agencies: I will go direct to your clients and undercut you delivering direct results and do it better than you can."



Ben said:

Impossible deadlines? Arsehole clients? Unreasonable pressure?

In the ad industry? Wow, who'd have thunk it.

Pfft said:

If you don't like working on ads, don't. Earn a living doing features then.

Clients hammer agencies, agencies hammer post houses. And we mark up production because we struggle to get clients to properly pay for what we do.

WPP might be making money, but the average agency is less profitable than a decent noodle bar.

And emotional rants on FB are never a good idea for professional people.

Gandalf. said:

I blame the ring. It makes people say and do crazy things.

jimmy the Nose said:


Horsefinger said:

Looks like his payment for the Lord of the Rings work was Gandalf's hat.

Headhunter said:

Obviously doesn't want to work in Australian advertising again.

mate said:

you make some very valid points but unfortunately I think you may have picked the wrong target.

Most agencies, in this day and age, are not allowed to mark up production costs. They don't actually make the money on top that you think. Unfortunately the brainiacs who run our industry (accountants) have developed the 'head hour' system. Doesn't matter about quality...

Secondly, that over paid creative director telling you what to do is a master of compromise. It's called commercial creativity. We dont get paid to just make pretty pictures. How well the fire reflects off of a shining object is not high on our priority list.

Maybe this is where the rub is?

We're more worried about balancing up the continued employment of staff VS the creative product and that informs almost all decisions.

It's a shit business, that we all try to glorify but dont let it get you down.

Anne Miles said:

Roger's frustrations are not alone and perhaps making a stand like this isn't exactly a positive way to go about changing it.

I do feel that there is a time for change, however I notice also that clients go direct to production services like Roger is suggesting but ignorance also gets a solution that is not strategic and is just focused on one execution. It is easy to think there are excesses if you don't know what you are looking for and undermine the value of something you don't have experience in to even know it exists or has a value. 'We don't know what don't know', as they say.

I notice that a lot of production services that work direct to clients as Roger suggests are making even more profits than the agency ever did. So, my suggestion is that clients need to be cautious of both sides of the fence in fact.

Jesus. said:

No wonder it's just a head shot.

His balls must be bigger than Bilbo Baggins himself.

Like said:

I like whistle blowers in any industry so I like Bolton San and his comments...

More please

Build a bridge... said:

No one ever wins an argument by getting personal. And why take others down with you? Your plight sounds more like a whinge that constructive criticism of the industry, so you'll struggle to rally the troops. Shame, because you really could have made a valid point. Instead, you turned me off caring. And throwing in the 'I've worked on LOTR' reference...so what?

A good artist you might be, but a thinking man you're not.

p.s. Has anyone ever told you that you look a bit like Charlie Sheen?

Just wondering... said:

"My work was personally chosen over 4 or 5 other artists by Peter Jackson to put the flames and reflection on the ring in the first Lord of the Rings film."

Were you asked to work on the second film?

Gargoyle said:

Roger Roger Roger, such naivety... When you go direct to our clients to undercut us and deliver better results, what exactly will you be selling them? I don't remember any client ever coming to me asking for a nice flame or lovely reflection. Is that all you've got? if it is, I fear this article on the blog is as far as your bold assault on Ad Land will go.

ID said:

What was your EP doing to allow these bad states of affairs to happen? Working until 5 am suggests bad communications and bad decision making. Good producers ensure that the agency are being clear about what they want, and if they say they want one thing and say they want something else (after you've made it) they will pull them up on it, so that the agency are clear that if they stuff up they will pay for it with money, that makes them concentrate on what they really want you to do.

Concentration is key in getting home at reasonable time.

Ouch said:

@Just Wondering

Booyah! That's funny.

Roger's plight reminds me of the Little Britian character - Bing Gordyn. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NeZH7es3bUM

WheresBen said:

I'd like to know what Ben Dover thinks of this. He may not like Roger but I'm sure he agrees with the fundamental point.
What happened with that Ben Dover thing anyway? It seems to have become Blown Over.

Blah Blah Blah.....my precious..... said:

Let me speak for the talented VFX artists residing and working here, by saying this:

Shut up and stay off the blog Rog, it's not safe for you here. You clearly are amongst the minority of 'artists' who should be stuck in a back room with no human contact and told to add sparkle to things. The majority of us enjoy working, collaborating and being creative with out agency counterparts, who are often friends as well as colleagues.

Stop biting the hand that (once upon a time, long long ago...) fed you, go back to eating raw fish you catch in the darkness of your cave and playing with your ring.

Roger Bolton said:

Since posting this message and being quoted I have received private job offers and two people offering to be my intern. No I don't want to work in Advertising in Australia ever again thanks very much. I've done the $200,000 budget jobs including working with Vincent Ward on award winning work.

I'm happier now doing $5,000-$20,000 budget jobs direct with small business owners.

I don't just make shiny VFX, I write, direct, edit and shoot myself and have a small team of bilingual camera crew, directors, DOP and artists. My rent is also already paid from the software company I own that I built up over 8 years. Its great to live life without fear.

Roger Bolton said:

Also, for anyone else effected by depression, please go to www.beyondblue.org.au and get help. And if you have recovered from it and overcome it, you can join the bluevoices program. They accept feedback to government services and use people to give talks. F*ck the stigma of admitting you have a problem. It's not your fault.

Ben Doon & Phil McKracken said:

Most of us in this game have felt this way at some time Rog. It comes with turf.

Focus on the upsides. If you can't think of any then maybe you should go get a job in an industry with more substance. You'll probably be much happier. Going direct to clients is unlikely to make much difference. You'll just be moaning about the client instead of the CD.

Adland doesn't sounds like the place for you. It's never been known for its morals or ethics.

All banged up said:

You're right about one thing..."I shoot myself". In the foot on several occassions I would say.

Roger Bolton said:

Just Wondering. No to be blunt I wasn't asked back for the second film but that doesn't take away from what I delivered. At the time I had personal issues that made me not able to deliver to my best capacity including undiagnosed low level depression. Since then I've sorted myself out.

Roger Bolton said:

All banged up: Sorry for every client I will lose from this stand I will gain 3. In the last 4 hours since this went live, two talented people have contacted me wanting to collaborate on projects, two people have offered to be my intern and four or five VFX artists have messaged me in private saying they agree.

Roger Bolton said:

Funnily enough the only people who have a problem with what I'm saying are agency people. Don't be scared. Hybrid creative studios are going to eat you up and steal your clients. But thats ok, I need experienced producers and script writers. I'll be hiring in six months or so.

horsefinger said:

"I don't just make shiny VFX, I write, direct, edit and shoot myself..."

In the foot by posting threads like this one?

internalise said:

Roger, you are repeating yourself and coming across as in secure and unconfident.
When someone is correct or believes in themselves, they don't feel the need to defend themselves.
Just saying. Grab a coke and a smile.

Hard said:

It's hard to mark-up anything nowadays when every client has a digital camera and think they can shoot their own commercials for next to nothing! And good luck on your new venture mate! I'm sure every big client in Australia will be falling over to hire you and your crew for their marketing communications! As long as your prepare to shoot ads for a couple of grand a pop!

Michael Bolton said:

Roger bro, stop blogging. It will end up being bad for business and nobody really cares. People drop in and drop out of the industry all the time, its nothing new.
Just enjoy yourself in Japan.

Single Mum said:

I'm a single mum with a daughter.

The Mug said:

Ha ha ha..This has turned out to be one big dose of self promotion for Roger B. I had never heard of this guy, until he started 'slagging agencies off' and then used that platform to proclaim how well he is doing, how his rent is paid for, who he will be hiring, blah blah blah...Come on RB, you have had your 15mins of fame..now piss off!

Dear Roger said:

You're lashing out at the wrong people. Nobodies afraid of you.
Your threats are the equivalent of an illustrator
telling an agency he's going to steal our clients because
we marked up his colour pencil drawing. All you're
Highlighting is that you have no idea.

Roger Bolton said:

Hey everyone slagging me. why is it you're afraid to put your real names on your responses. No I won't shut up, its part of my recovery process and it gets me work. How many new clients did you get today? I got about 10. Block me if you want to put I won't go away.

rogerbolton Author Profile Page said:

I'm not trying to scare anyone. I'm pointing out the threats to your current business model. Listen to me or ignore me, its fine with me. I didn't ask campaign brief to describe me as 'VFX Artist", I'm not a VFX artist anymore, I'm a owner of a small hybrid studio with bilingual production and post production crew in Osaka and I'm booked solid for the next three months.

Charlie Sheen said:

Nice hat, bro.

Love you Rog said:

Rog, I love it that you are passionate, emotional and call it how you see it without fear. I wish there were more in the ad biz with those qualities - sadly they are rare. Thank you for sharing your experiences and feelings, which are real. I do agree with you on many levels. Sadly most of our ad budgets are allocated to servicing clients and managing their fear rather than actually producing great work. Goodluck to you and don't stop blogging it's nice to read something real.

No name said:

I like most of these guys will just ignore this article. Please Lynchy, no more posts like this.

rogerbolton Author Profile Page said:

whoever you are "love you rog". Thanks. I don't intend to stop but I would like to make to everyone this post was written for my facebook page and I had no idea that it was going to get posted in full on campaign brief. I don't have any regrets but I didn't aim to get this posted in front of the whole aussie ad world when I wrote it.

my facebook page is my personal blog with photography and thoughts about being an entrepreneur in asia. Anyone that wants can read my stuff there.

No Class said:

This chap makes some naive (but not entirely dubious) points about how the ad industry bills its actuals, and he continues to respond to posts claiming an astonishing windfall of clientele as a result of this outburst, which is entirely dubious.

But the frightening thing here is that there are so many people who can overlook a serious depression problem for the sake of cheap and, by and large, crap jokes at his expense.

Personally, I'd rather you all just said, hey Roger, whoever you are, pick up a phone and call a friend because depression is no joke.

At least that has some value and doesn't potentially compound what seems to be a reasonably serious and unfortunately public cry for help.

But hey, well done everyone who posted here for proving to be as vapid and dim as poor, suffering Roger at first asserted.

Y'all gots no class.

Ben Balser said:

Roger hits the nail on the head. Ad agencies have been abusive for many years now. Both to sub-contractors and clients. I agree totally with Roger and back him up 100%! Too bad some of the folks posting comments don't either understand the issues first hand, or are afraid of ad agencies.

CD said:

hey roger,
I'm a CD and I kinda find it a little insulting that you've pigeonholed us all as evil, overpaid, whip cracking guys. I'm sorry youve had some bad experiences but we're not all like that. Most if not all CD's I know love meeting and collaborating with talented artists. We build good releationships with them and respect them deeply. Yes our demands and expectations are high but isn't every creative persons? I would hope so. And yes, our job is to critique work and strive for creative excellence. You're definitely in the wrong business if you can't handle that. Also, no CD would go into any job expecting artists to stay up all night. That comes down to your producer either over promising or some other sort of miscommunication in the production process.
Look, you've clearly gone through a tough time mate and I'm sad to hear it but don't blame us all for your experiences.
Hope things work out for you.

Pianaman said:

I'm a supplier - music - and it is a hard business to have creative longevity in. You need to emotionally invest in your work yet still be prepared to change it if the client thinks it isn't right. You always present your side, but in the end you are supplying a service. Every piece must be your best, yet you must be prepared to kill the baby, then get up and do it all tomorrow with a different client. I agree with CD - most CD's I've worked with DO really appreciate and respect your talent. They got to that position by knowing how to let talented people do their thing, then help them take it a step further.
I've seen them dealing with their clients outside session doors, and they can have it, I wouldn't want to deal with that side for all the tea in China. I know most agencies mark up my fee, by why wouldn't they? I've seen what they have to deal with. I quote the price I need to do the job to my standards and make enough profit, after that it's none of my business.
I have had to pull some overnighters, because the client has changed direction at the last minute and on air date is looming, but always with apologies and I've been fortunate enough to be surrounded by experienced producers and therefore well paid for the inconvenience.
The only creatives that I have real problems with are some of the newer small 'digital' agencies (I hate that term, should just be called one dude and a laptop) with people fresh out of uni who think the know everything and music should be free because they download all their ipod stock off torrents, but they are part of the business, like it or leave it. That's the thing, it is a business. We do artistic things, but we are not making art. If you want to do that then do it, on your terms, but don't do it as a business where you need to deliver daily consistent results. It will run you down eventually. I've seen a lot of pop stars have a go at it and walk after one gig. It's not for everyone, but if you do it for a living you know what you are doing so it's a bit much to turn around after doing it for years and say it's a load of crap.
I haven't used my real name because I don't want to suck up to agencies, I just want to give my side of it as another creative supplier who's been in the business for over 20 years.
Good luck with the new direction, but there's no need to crap all over the place as you walk out the door. Healing should be a peaceful process...

rogerbolton Author Profile Page said:

Planaman, as I said this post was never intended to end up on campaign brief. I do think that there is a fundamental problem with the way the client feedback loop is handled in the TVC world and I hope to write a thoughtful follow up piece in a few weeks time on different business models for client interaction if CP wants it.

rogerbolton Author Profile Page said:

CD: campaign brief also cut off the end of my post where I said "(PS there are exceptions, I've met some good people that work in agencies, I know you're out there)".

I do think for me personally the best business model to smaller jobs where I go direct to clients. I will work with agencies again in the future, but only on my terms with deadlines that I agree to and since I have an income stream from my software plugins I can afford to turn down unreasonable work.

I can't be certain said:

But do you have an income stream from your software plugins..?

I love a good software plug-in, me said:

See above.

Token anonymous commenter said:

I reckon good on you Roger. Unless you really needed the money, I can't imagine anyone actually wanting to work in, or with, the ad industry.

A formerly depressed agency chump who has since gone client side & earns 50% more than my old boss did, whilst working 30% fewer hours.

Overpaid creative said:

I just want to say I enjoyed the thoughtful and - IMO - accurate comments from Planaman.

It's more or less what I'd have said if I could be bothered writing anything that long.

your'e not robinson crusoe said:

Actually you will probably find the creatives spent long nights and head banging meetings to get any idea to the studio and dont need attitude just energy to do the best with whatever it is they take into the studio...and the more helpful no matter what to get something decent if it cant be great even will actually reward you with loyalty..and they will be fighting to protect whatever it is you add.

good one said:

good on you rog. people who aren't depressed in advertising are sociopaths/corporate psycopaths. the rest who aren't, won't admit they're stressed, overworked and possibly depressed because they're distracted by the bullshit 'glamour' they might get from telling their friends they're "creative" - when it's actually probably the least creative profession you could be in. it's just about ripping off artists. advertising is one of the most deeply distressing occupations i've ever dipped my toe into for 4/5 years as a "creative". be well.

TimesHaveChanged said:

Times have changed, Roger has found a niche, good on him, agencies need to change, stop paying their Overpaid Creative Directors so much money, spend the money on GOOD account service people.

Anyone can say "make it blue, no, no, make it green, no, no make it ...", not everyone can handle clients.

Gargoyle said:

Token Anonymous Commentator. It is perhaps for you that I have the most sympathy
in this thread.

"A formerly depressed agency chump who has since gone client side & earns 50% more than my old boss did, whilst working 30% fewer hours."

If you love what you're doing; which many of us in this industry actually do, spending less time doing it isn't really a driver.

I deduce from your proud claim about working 30% less hours that your move client side has not rewarded you with an occupation that affords you anything beyond financial remuneration. Sad to spend such a significant proportion of your life in this way.

Good One - "people who aren't depressed in advertising are sociopaths/corporate psycopaths". This is a ridiculous blanket statement. I'm neither a sociopath nor a corporate psychopath and am, in the 13th year of my career as a creative in advertising having a ball.

There may be bad environments, tricky clients, unfortunate circumstances that we encounter along way, but we can learn to deal with all of them. And it is easier to do so if we keep sight of the fact that we, as professional creatives are members of a fortunate minority of people who get paid to do what we love doing.

Jaded and Faded said:

Thirteen years into your career, Gargoyle? You should be enjoying it, you're in your pomp. See how you feel in another fifteen.

Anonymous said:

This is a tough business that many people love and thrive in. Clients get amazing value out of our industry so stop slagging it. Please leave the business immediately.

Token anonymous commenter said:

Hey Gargoyle,

I enjoy my new job greatly (much more than any I had in the ad industry), I have complete control over what I do, the hours are fewer and the money is substantially better. I'm not sure what's sad about that.

And yeah, I aim to minimise my time at work - I have a life outside the office which I value far more than any job, so the more hours I'm at home the better I reckon. I'm at home on my 2nd glass of red at 6pm most days now...in the old days I'd have a few hours of work ahead of me.

Anyway, it's nearly 5.30 and I have the day off tomorrow so I'm headed home. I appreciate the sympathy however I don't think I need it. :)

rogerbolton said:

everyone telling me to leave the industrry is hilarious. I have been too busy setting up my studio and writing scripts and client briefs for the last 24 hours to respond.

I am not leaving the industry. I am stealing your clients. the press release about my studio and my first major international brand will be here on campaign brief soon.

Marcus Pun said:

He's dead right. Ad agencies will rip off your dead mother's coffin if they could. Had a client who went to an ad agency for a simple web video. They blew 110K on a Hollywood DP, shot it in HD at a beach and a few other odds and ends for a 3 minute corporate video displayed on the web in the days when 720x405 was de rigeur.
Looking at the trash everyone I knew around me knew that a good local cameraman, a producer with good copy writing experience could have done the whole thing for less than 15K and we knew this because this was EXACTLY the kind of work we all did anyway.

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