So the other day I decided to hold a tender for pizza. My idea was to call four different pizza delivery places, and let them in on my little plan, which was very simple -- each of the places would have to deliver a pizza to my office by the middle of the day, I'd eat them over the next week, and whichever pizza I liked most, I would pay for. Well, at least partially pay for.
If that sounds incredibly stupid, then you now understand how an advertising agency feels when it's called by a potential client to pitch for new business.
In addition to every other pitfall, the ad market in Russia runs a very possible risk of having your ideas outright stolen. Take for example the case of a major beer distributor, which I'll just call Ass Candles Ltd. Ass Candles is a beverages distributor, meaning that they negotiate exclusive distribution deals with various brands, and distribute these throughout Russia. In Ass Candles' case, they handle many of the top imported beers you probably drink.
A few months ago, Ass Candles called a pitch, which means that they called five to six agencies and, well, they ordered pizza from us. The whole thing was a little suspect from the start, especially when Ass Candles insisted on having every agency pitch all of the above mentioned brands at once; they then debriefed each ad agency, asking to return with specific executions and creative idea development.
Typically, in a pitch, if creatives are required, they are very topline, and are generally not taken any further until the business is won. Ass Candles, however, wanted scripts, scenarios and details. If you come from one of the smaller "upstart" agencies, when anyone asks for creative work this detailed, red flags should start-a-wavin'.
Ultimately, someone -- let's say, "a friend of mine in the advertising business" -- didn't win the bid for the account. Well, sort of. Last week while at a [NAME OF INTERNATIONAL BEER BRAND]-sponsored film launch, we were surprised to see, in the new ad campaign that they unveiled, the work of this very agency whom I happened to know well. My agency.
Yes folks, Ass Candles used the very same images and creatives from our pitch presentation for this sponsored launch. We contacted Ass Candles about this, and received a convoluted explanation about how some designer "accidentally" used our work, had no idea, it's too late now, sorry, etc.
However, they did offer to buy out all our creatives, for all four pitches. I'm going to show you here the email that I got in reply to our complaints, although I'm changing the names in order to protect the eXile from a destructive frivolous lawsuit. It was sent to us by their bigwig marketing guy:
From: Xxx Xxx [mailto:XXX@asscandles.xxx]
Sent: Tuesday, October 10, 2006 10:21 AM
Subject: RE: results of the tender
Sorry for the late reply, the time is hectic here these days.
...So our idea was to compensate you USD 2000-2500. If we make this compensation it should imply that we get permission to use any "raw materials" used in your presentation.
And again, I would like to stress that before starting the tender we had agreed with you that the tender costs will not be paid, so now we are talking about our good will.
Ass Candles offered $500 -- $650 for each set of proposals. This was their offer to buy out all rights and permissions. In reality, this work is easily worth $10,000 -- $20,000 per campaign. Good will, indeed.
Ass Candles can keep their money. Our reply was a very curt rejection of his ridiculous offer, and a clear notice that we do not give them permission to use our ideas. Although it's a little late now, really.
And that's how it's done here sometimes. Call a tender, invite smaller agencies, steal ideas, and then dare them to take you on when they do. What can a smaller agency do? The inability to enforce intellectual property rights, a selective system of justice enforcement, corruption, as well as a host of other emerging market factors all mean that unless you have some sort of leverage over your partners and clients, you simply assume the worst.