Opinion: Leader - Creative ownership is worth fighting for

Almost three years ago, when ITV Digital went into liquidation, the administrator started looking at the ill-fated operation's assets.

He was surprised to find that high up on the list was a stuffed toy called Monkey.

Monkey, and his relationship with comedian Johnny Vegas, had been the mainstay of ITV Digital's ad campaign and a bright creative idea in an otherwise gloom-laden venture. Other firms began sniffing around the animated primate, wondering whether Monkey could revitalise their own brands. But Mother, the ad agency that devised the campaign, was furious.

'How dare you sell off Monkey as an asset, when it was our idea?' it argued.

He ended up being donated to Comic Relief.

This spat highlighted the issue of ownership of creative ideas, something the PR industry is getting to grips with.

This week it emerges that marcoms agency The Fish Can Sing has fallen out with Coors, apparently because the agency feels the brewer has undervalued its strategic and creative input. The result of the spat is that TFCS will no longer handle Coors' PR but has sold the intellectual copyright for its creative approach. The brewer clearly values TFCS's idea, because it is apparently planning to roll out the concept as part of a wider marketing campaign. Hopefully this is a landmark for our industry.

TFCS, which operates more like an ad agency with dedicated planners and creatives, argues - quite rightly - that agencies tend to undervalue their creative input.

Part of the reason is that there is oversupply in the consumer PR sector and many agencies price themselves too low in order to get a foot in the door of big brands. But if agencies are undervaluing their ideas, then so probably are blue-chip marketing directors.

If consumer PR is to take its rightful place at marketing's top table - alongside advertising, brand consultancy and direct marketing - it first needs to treat the creative process more professionally. Only then will agencies have the confidence to negotiate a fair price for a hard day's work.

News, p3.

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