In marketing the common approach to appointing a new PR, advertising or digital agency is to host a pitch, inviting agencies to showcase their talent, ideas and synergy with the organisation.
An enormous amount of agency time and resources is spent on developing a campaign that will ‘’wow’’ the prospective client.
A good agency will create a dedicated team that is responsible for interrogating the brief, delving into the client’s business, researching and developing a strategy and, if required, a creative component.
They’ll spend hours psycho-analysing the client, trying to understand what will give them the edge over the competition or wondering who in the agency will have the most chemistry with the client counter-part.
All of this is done for free.
That has been the lay of the land for many years – just watch an episode of Mad Men.
Inevitably in this situation there is one winner. If you’re on the losing team, you dust yourself off, think about what you can learn from the experience, and move on to the next one.
I accept that process and I accept that it is unlikely to change despite debates consuming the industry about whether clients should be charged for pitches.
What I don’t accept is client organisations that then proceed to pillage the pitch documents of the agencies who participated.
They take the ideas that were presented to them for free and develop the campaigns as their own, without any recognition or financial compensation for the agency that invested thousands of dollars into creating them.
Sure, they might tweak it or even claim that the ideas were generated internally but in essence they are stealing another person’s intellectual property.
Again, this has been the lay of the land for many years. Organisations have even been known to create a fake pitch situation just to get a fresh round of ideas without having to pay for them.
Some agency heads might tell me to suck it up, to stop being a princess as there’s nothing that can be done about it.
But that’s the beauty of being a freelancer. I can say no. I can say no to being a pitch bitch and giving my ideas away for free to organisations I don’t believe deserve it.
The organisations that do deserve it are the ones that treat you with respect and like you’re a part of their team.
I love working with clients like this and I don’t mind throwing in ideas for free as it can be really rewarding (emotionally and financially) as well as mutually beneficial for all involved.
But I draw the line at working for clients that treat you like a servant, that expect something for nothing, and don’t give anything back in return.
If you’re in an agency or a freelancer like me, please think about saying no to being a pitch bitch. Respect yourself and respect your ideas. As the L’Oréal ads say – because you’re worth it.