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  • Pitch or free work

  • Simon Cawthorne

    May 19, 2005 at 1:11 pm

    Hi I originally put this on the original thread, but not sure if that is still a “live” thread, so apologies if it is an unecessary repeat:

    i thought I’d add a follow-up for those of you who may find yourselves in a similar position.

    I took the approach of responding to my (potential) client an explaining that I would complete the video as requested by his client, but on a daily rate, for which i was happy to quote. He came back to me to say that could I give this quote and also for the whole project, but also said that he felt like “piggy in the middle” between me and his client, and that he thought we’d already agreed that I would do this work anyway.

    I spent some time putting an answer together. In overview, I said whilst i accepted that many pitches require a great deal of work, many times including work to a high level, and yes, at the onset, I had accepted I would be in a pitch where the much of the work he was talking about would be produced – BUT I had not accepted I would provide completed work, and that to do this for a pitch would in many circumstances be considered highly irregular.

    I suggested that his clients asking for additional work to be done after the pitch/presentation was also not acceptable (especially as they or he, had brought the pitch presentation forward by two weeks) – develpoment is project work, not pitch work.

    I wrote that although I had given him a (healthy) quote for completing the video along with a timescale, that I advise the client should actually not take this offer up, as the video they had already seen will have shown them enough – instead, I offered to provide a treatment for the whole project that could then be submitted alongside the existing video. Much more productive, and could map out the whole project for them.

    Well, this guy has been fairly efficient in maintaining contact as things have prgressed, by phone and e-mail. Indeed he’s been quite enthusiastic. However, I sent him my last e-mail a couple of days ago (the first one with a figure and a price mentioned) and guess what…

    He may be talking to his client, but somehow I think I’ve seen the last of him.

    I think I did the right thing, and the longer he goes without responding, the more sure of this I become.

    Idle/possibly paranoid thought: I don’t think I was ever going to see a job, but wonder if I was going to provide the template for someone else’s job, or at least provide a nice shiny video for him and his clients for free, that they could use to get the rest of the project going.



  • Mark Suszko

    May 19, 2005 at 3:45 pm


    Lots of people fret about giving away the ideas “for free” or having them “stolen”. It never feels fun to have this happen, but as there’s nothing that can be done about it in practical terms it’s something we just have to get used to and get over. More ideas will come, they always do, because you’re a creative person. That’s the part they CAN’T steal. Anyone can re-tell a great joke and get a laugh, but far fewer people can come up with the initial, original joke to start with. It’s the true comedian who *creates* the jokes that lasts long after the guy who just repeats them runs out of fresh material and fades away. This is the thing you are really marketing when you go into pitches: the stuff between your ears is what they are paying for, the scribbles on the paper are just an intermediary element.

    Some small consolation: usually the folks who steal your idea after the pitch and cut you loose without a deal really don’t “get it” well enough to successfully execute it anyhow. That happened to me. I was brought in by a third party who really liked my work to pitch some creative for a well-established small business with a long history in town. The long-established company had it’s back to the wall because of modern competition and was desperately looking for new options. I spent about a week on the research and interviews, put together sample spots and a creative treatment mapping out an entire campaign, designed to re-position the business as they had wanted in about four weeks worth of ad play, alternating custom spots in a rotation designed to build the entire brand thru episodic storytelling, making the owners of the store into dramatic characters and creating the new identity thru smart humor interwoven with targeted sales copy. Something like if A Prairie Home Companion was also selling auto parts;-)

    Family politics between the owners and their dad and a lack of creative courage led to them taking a pass on my work (which I subsequently entered in a local creative competition, where it handily won the scriptwriting category, thank you). They thanked me for my time, made some half-hearted offers at a trade-out for product in exchange for my ideas, and we parted amicably, but without a deal.

    Two weeks later, the scummy radio station they were running all their spots on, (yes, the very one they hated so bad for their lack of good production and writing that they had brought me in for creative) was running very simplified, raggedly-produced, truncated imitations of the sample spots I had done for them, at fire-sale rate card prices.

    They copied some of the superficial parts of my spots, but because they hadn’t done the research or looked at mine to understand what I was trying to do, they didn’t use the underlying strategy and formatting, none of the “brainwork” behind the spots.

    The effect was like comparing a Rolex Oyster Perpetual to a Hong Kong plastic knock-off. The very lack of quality in the re-written cloned spots killed their credibility, since the themes were all about high quality and ethical treatment of customers. The badly cloned spots tanked in a week. Clients went out of business two-three weeks later. It’s not very Christian of me, but I kind of had one of those “I told you so” moments when I got the news, and I was confident that had they gone my way, I could have pulled them back into the black on the strength of my work. The more mature part of me would much rather gloat about making them winners than celebrate their karmic defeat.

    I hope to someday get back into doing this kind of consulting for some other client that will take my ideas thru to completion, because I know I can come up with another winning campaign.

    I think you will also have similar future success, doog, you just have to maintain your standards and not get hornswoggled, and you seem to be a perceptive enough chap based on what you posted about this gig already. You’ll make out fine eventually, just keep kicking out the ideas until one of them catches fire.

    Ideas are a dime a dozen. They’re looking for the guy who’s supplying the dimes;-)

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