Cross-industry coalition would protect ideas in review process

PRWeek supports the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A's) decision to protect its member-agencies' ideas during the pitch process.

PRWeek supports the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A's) decision to protect its member-agencies' ideas during the pitch process. Forty-six of the 55 ad agencies on its new business committee endorsed a letter that urged search consultants to insist on contract language that would allow firms to retain intellectual property rights over ideas submitted to perspective clients during a review, AdAge reported this week.

As consultants who offer their ideas and people as currency, neither ad firms nor PR firms can afford to give away their creativity. Too often, stories circulate about search firms offering vague opportunities by unidentified clients if only you'll hand over a binder of your latest credentials and ideas, or of fastidious pitch requirements from clients who seem to have only a vague idea of what they want.

The 4A's PR counterpart, The Council of PR Firms, has issued similar guidelines in its numerous best practices documents, providing agencies and clients alike a solid template for running and participating in a fair and effective review. These types of best practices standards are exactly what good business development pros in agencies adhere to when considering whether to pursue new business and clients, in tune, follow in order to achieve the best results.

However, neither the 4A's nor the Council's procedures are binding, and putting the onus on search firms only shifts responsibility. What would strengthen these important principles would be if the firms that belong to these industry groups joined together to sign a document of their intent to walk away from any contract that does not adhere to standards set about by these associations. Surely, a coalition of the top-tier firms at these associations, which account for the bulk of industry revenues, could put an end to this long-simmering grievance that continues to strain the agency-client relationship.

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