Plagiarism is not only common in the creative pitch process; media planning, strategy and execution are possibly even more vulnerable to a little friendly theft. Whilst words and pictures have a physical presence that cannot be disguised, it is almost impossible to prove that a great idea or strategy was yours and yours alone.
Thankfully, media has moved on from the one-dimensional “how cheap can you buy it?” approach of yesteryear. Campaigns are no longer won and lost solely on a creative “big idea” and clients take an increasingly holistic approach to assessing an agency offering. In this environment, delivering a winning communication strategy should be a cornerstone of any pitch. However, the fact that this may be viewed as transferable from one creative execution to another with no “come-backs” belittles its importance.
Looking at it from the client perspective, the temptation to mix and match a little must be overwhelming; you have everything to gain and nothing to lose.
In a pitch the collective outpouring of numerous brains theoretically should be better than any individual’s, and it is easy to understand how different elements from a variety of presentations might find their way into the client’s final solution. This may be a little frustrating, but it is nowhere near as aggravating as clients who enter into the pitch process as a fact-finding exercise, with little or no intention of awarding the business to any of the participants.
In such cases, the pitch is used as a source for new ideas, another perspective on the market, to find out what the competition is doing, a tool to leverage a better deal from an existing agency or a way of double-checking costs. Any less than scrupulous client could call a pitch for one or all of these reasons safe in the knowledge that their true motive will never be discovered.
Creative ideas, in the form of words and pictures, can be protected to a certain degree under the umbrella of Intellectual Property. Sadly, the vast majority of media ideas are in the public domain, and therefore open to use and abuse by clients and agencies alike.
How individual media channels are utilised is also unprotected. Thus, a brilliant piece of individual planning within a well-known or well-used medium goes largely unrewarded. Wholly unrewarded if that idea is hijacked outside of an existing relationship.
All any agency asks is to compete on a fairly level playing field. You appreciate the opportunity, accept that other relationships may already be in place, roll your sleeves up and give it your best shot. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and you have to be big enough to accept that what you had was not what they were looking for.
What you cannot accept is going through the process when the result has already been decided, or when free ideas and information are the hidden agenda.
Strategic communications director