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"Thanks for the free ideas, now, beat it"

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Mark Suszko"Thanks for the free ideas, now, beat it"
by on Feb 21, 2011 at 4:31:03 pm

Wow, just... wow.

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Steve KownackiRe: "Thanks for the free ideas, now, beat it"
by on Feb 21, 2011 at 10:12:35 pm

I've responded "no thanks" to a number of similar RFPs over the years. Ridiculous. Worse than working in exchange for getting your name on a credit roll.


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Nick GriffinRe: "Thanks for the free ideas, now, beat it"
by on Feb 22, 2011 at 3:56:22 pm

Like Steve, I've had similar requests, most recently with an RFP from an industry trade group. We turned them down flat, not even answering a single question on the RFP. Then, surprise surprise, we later found out that the account was awarded to a close friend of the woman who had prepared the RFP.

More power to the agencies who will "just say no" to Sears and anyone else who thinks that their buying power entitles them to make outrageous demands.

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walter biscardiRe: "Thanks for the free ideas, now, beat it"
by on Feb 22, 2011 at 11:30:17 am

This really is completely ridiculous. Having someone pitch you an idea does not transfer ownership of that idea to you. We only have to hope that all agencies stay away from this offer because if one DOES take it and they create a successful commercial campaign, then others will be emboldened to try the same approach.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author, Chef.
HD Post and Production
Biscardi Creative Media

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Mark SuszkoRe: "Thanks for the free ideas, now, beat it"
by on Feb 22, 2011 at 4:47:52 pm

It is customary for the big agencies to get *some* compensation for preparing spec bids, and of course such fees should be negotiable, but to offer no payment for pitching and to try to claim ownership of the agency's work product is beyond the pale. it would fundamentally alter how this business is done, and not in a good way.

You see rip-offs like this also with so-called "competitions" by folks who advertise on Craigs and such. Make the entire ad for them, submit it, "win" a token amount for a spot you should have billed thousands for. And they get to keep all the other entries too, to minefor more ideas that they then execute with a real budget.

Racing to the bottom.

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Andy StintonRe: "Thanks for the free ideas, now, beat it"
by on Feb 22, 2011 at 10:43:58 pm

Unbelievable, besides the obvious comments that can be made about Sears deplorable attitude I think it is more indicative of an attitude generally towards the creative community.

Since media tools have become so cheap and plentiful,l turning anybody into a "producer" I think our trade has suffered monetarily.

Many companies believe that Suzy secretary can produce professional PowerPoint as part of the job as proficiently as a graphic artist. This we know to be untrue, however they don't have to pay Suzy secretary which means she does a great job.

The same applies to the video, just because someone owns a camera and editing suite does not mean that they can create a communication piece that effectively delivers the company's message.

I too often hear the words out of my clients mouth when requesting a major creative change ” you just have to......” As time goes on I see more of this disregard both monetarily and for want of a better word respectfully. Perhaps Sears is just putting on paper what others think, that creativity has no value.

We get paid for what we do making us creative whores, personally I have no desire to be a creative slut :-)

Andy Stinton
Corporate Video
Live & Stage Events
Business Practices

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Tim WilsonRe: "Thanks for the free ideas, now, beat it"
by on Feb 23, 2011 at 12:06:46 am

I am shocked that anybody is surprised by this. I get why an under-educated reporter would be surprised, I get why an overworked editor wouldn't actually read the article, but you folks?

A refresher:

  • Ideas are free for the taking.
  • Ideas may not be copyrighted.
  • Ideas may not be trademarked.
  • As soon as you pitch anybody anything, they can do whatever they want with it.
  • Don't want someone to steal your idea? Don't tell them.

I also found it hilarious that anybody objects to Sears wanting to keep your pitch materials. I doubt that even one of you has ever said, "I didn't get the job, so give me back my DVD." You make the pitch, leave your portfolio, and hope for the best.

This is not shocking, dismaying, or in any way unusual. That Sears is TELLING you, rather than PRETENDING to be your pal, is the only unusual part of the story, and is to be commended.

I don't mean to sound cynical or condescending, but no kidding. Don't want someone to steal your idea? Don't tell 'em.

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Mark SuszkoRe: "Thanks for the free ideas, now, beat it"
by on Feb 23, 2011 at 5:19:58 am

Tim; love ya, man, and don't you ever change, but I'm not sure we read the same article.

Yes, nobody owns just an idea, but a specific creative *expression* of that idea, indeed CAN be owned, and in fact the business revolves around that ownership, and trading it for money. Sears wants to own the creative expression of the idea, as well as the idea, without paying for it. "Give me all your AE project files for free, and I'll let you know if I want to pay you for any of them or not, but I may go ahead and use one as a template and not pay you, if I feel like it." That's how it feels, man.

Or closer to home; "I'm going to let you pitch me on a magazine article: it used to be that if I passed on it, it reverted back to you but now because times are tight, I want you to leave me all your photos and your copy, as well as all your notes and contacts you used to write the article, and all your research, then I might pay you or I might not, but I'll use what you just gave me, even using your exact title and wording, and charge people to read it, as if I paid you for it."

How long could you run a magazine fronting THOSE terms?

A parallel discussion to this is happening in the Documentary forums where some folks are upset with what they think is unfair "borrowing" of their ideas submitted to Discovery Channel. In that case, I gave the same argument you did, initially, but the more anecdotal evidence comes out, the more it seems to be more than a simple case of "great minds thinking alike."

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Ronald LindeboomRe: "Thanks for the free ideas, now, beat it"
by on Feb 23, 2011 at 6:43:39 pm

Tim and I got a good laugh out of a business that sells subscription training services that issued a press release that was almost a clone of some of the press releases we had issued earlier. Did we get pissed because they stole their idea from us? No, we congratulated them for finally recognizing a good idea.

This reminds me of when people were complaining because Google tracks them and their posts are public. I scratched my head at that one, because I think it's pretty obvious that the internet is public and that there are companies worth many many billions of dollars whose sole raison d'etre is to take what you say and make it public.

Don't want your words and ideas stolen? Never make them public. Get off the internet, don't make pitches except to those to whom you can make them only after they sign a non-disclosure agreement. (Though that will likely insure that you'll make almost no pitches.)

As it's been said here many times: you cannot protect an idea. If you could, neither Apple nor Microsoft would exist today.

But at least Sears is telling people what's up. I have to give them that much. It's more honest than a lot of companies that I've seen.

Best regards,

Ronald Lindeboom
CEO, Creative COW LLC
Publisher, Creative COW Magazine

Creativity is a process wherein the student and the teacher are located in the same individual.

"Incompetence has never prevented me from plunging in with enthusiasm."
- Woody Allen

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Tim WilsonRe: "Thanks for the free ideas, now, beat it"
by on Feb 23, 2011 at 7:04:37 pm

And not to dismiss Sears, especially to folks in Chicago, but the notion that they might steal your idea and execute it better than the client who DOES buy this same pitch from you -- dude, it's Sears. Not gonna happen.

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Bob ColeRe: "Thanks for the free ideas, now, beat it"
by on Feb 23, 2011 at 10:46:38 pm

[Tim Wilson] "dude, it's Sears. Not gonna happen"

So true, and so sad. An American icon back in the day. They sold HOUSES, for crying out loud.

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Bob ColeRe: "Thanks for the free ideas, now, beat it"
by on Feb 23, 2011 at 12:24:47 am

[Andy Stinton] "We get paid for what we do making us creative whores"

There were a few years, way back when, when I was trying to graduate to corporate video (from making documentaries with meager grant money), when I said "I would be happy to prostitute my art, if only somebody wanted to ..." You get the picture.

Then I started doing corporate video, and yes, Andy, you are correct, in a way. But I doubt many businessmen would be thinking of it in such a pejorative context. Video for hire is a business relationship, not a matter of art. And we have no monopoly on "creativity." There is plenty of creativity in other aspects of business, like writing leases, choosing inventory, and evaluating prospective employees.

There are even more examples of what Sears is attempting, on the COW's Jobs Offered No/Little Pay forum. That's fine. Take it, or leave it. But they needn't strike a moral pose; really, all these ad agencies are doing is trying to sell the notion that it's a matter of right and wrong. Baloney. Both sides will do whatever they can get away with. Always have, always will.

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Alan LloydRe: "Thanks for the free ideas, now, beat it"
by on Feb 25, 2011 at 4:19:19 pm

I'm sure you're also aware, Mark, of Sears' tactic of crowding out other customers at their suppliers, to the point where they were the only client, and then using that leverage as a bludgeon.

On the other hand, long, long ago (in the 1970's) I was working at Douglas Film Industries, on Kinzie St., just north of DT Chicago, and some of the very best stuff that ever came through our facility was from the Sears internal studios.

Life ain't simple.

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Mark SuszkoRe: "Thanks for the free ideas, now, beat it"
by on Feb 25, 2011 at 7:32:06 pm

I hate to keep flogging this point, amid all the free-market Laissez-faire spirit here, but it remains that while you can't protect an IDEA, the very specific and particular artistic expression of that idea is very much protected. People and huge corporations win suits over such infringement all the time.

Say I was to, I dunno, make a magazine about the video industry with a bovine-oriented visual theme, a particular Pantone shade of, say, for a random example, blue, prominent in the design, and so forth.....

...just sayin'....

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Patrick OrtmanRe: "Thanks for the free ideas, now, beat it"
by on Feb 26, 2011 at 6:59:51 pm

We don't do reviews or spec work to land clients, because that's beyond stupid. I bet most of you don't, either.

Big advertising agencies don't flinch at spec work, because they suck so much of the client's money with their cut of media placements. What would their cut of $500M be, each year?

We're a creative shop, our product is the work, not the vig. I think that's pretty much how it is with everyone here, right? So it makes sense that, as creative shops, we'd get riled up when big old mean Sears devalues the creative work we do and make our livings doing. But again, we're not big agencies- our businesses are set up on very different models (mostly, although Walter keeps alluding to/teasing about his special business model).

Every time I've been called in by a big ad agency to help with one of their pitches, I've been paid pretty well for my time and efforts. I'm pretty confident the As will make sure their interests are served, there's some wicked smart people in those agencies. That said, it's interesting watching so many old A people moving to open their own, more creatively-oriented, shops. If that continues, the old A model will indeed topple. Whether that'll be a good thing or not, who knows.

Web and Video Design

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Malcolm MatuskyRe: "Thanks for the free ideas, now, beat it"
by on Feb 27, 2011 at 7:04:46 pm

Pitching an "idea" may not be copyrightable, but preparing a "pitch" or presentation certainly is. Sample video programming, drawings, written outlines on campaign strategy is all intellectual property that the creator can copyright. If you are just having a meeting and talking, that's up for grabs, when I submit, photos, drawings, video, or a detailed marketing strategy, that becomes my intellectual property and is protected. I think that is what the agencies in question are rejecting, not "ideas" but the actual creative material they are submitting to Sears. That would be a no-go for any businessman.


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Mike CohenRe: "Thanks for the free ideas, now, beat it"
by on Mar 6, 2011 at 11:30:39 pm

Is Sears still in business? I thought those large stores attached to malls were all abandoned...

Mike Cohen

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