The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

If You Don’t Have Trust You Don’t Have Anything …

Recently there has been a number of cases where we’ve sadly seen companies take creative ideas from one agency and have them made, without acknowledging the original creator, by someone else.

We saw it with the Coinbase Superbowl spot and I saw it with an ex-client of mine.

What is especially amusing is that when these people are called out, their first inclination is to try and bluff it out … despite you being able to prove it was your work thanks to specific dates, presentation materials and information about who was in attendance.

In my case, the individual in question literally asked “what’s your problem?”

With a comment like that, they were either being deliberately ignorant or, well you get it …

So we launched legal action against them.

At the time, some said this was sour grapes.

That we were being petty and alienating future business as it would make companies want to keep away from us.

But they were wrong.

Because this was never about the specific piece of work they took from us had gave to someone else – while not paying or acknowledge us for the origination, it was about respecting relationships and valuing what you do.

It’s fine to have differences of opinion.

It’s fine to realise a relationship – regardless how long and fruitful it has been – should end.

But that doesn’t mean you can act like the relationship never happened and you can do whatever you want with the things you did together.

Creativity is hard enough without all the commercial obstacles it needs us to jump over.

Brand assets.
Corporate politics.
Measurement criteria.
Short timelines.

The last thing the industry needs is to have to start worrying about the integrity of the people you’re working with/for … which is why we took legal action, because our view was if we didn’t, we would be complicit to it when it happens again in the future.

Maybe not to us. But to someone.

And for the record, while they didn’t let it go to court, we were recompensed fully and it never did us any harm in winning other business. Quite the opposite in fact.

Now doing this doesn’t mean you have to it with public fanfare and maximum embarrassment, we didn’t – though I should point out I think what Kristen did with CoinBase was both brilliant and utterly justified – but it also doesn’t mean you should just forget about it and put it down to ‘experience’.

Whatever way you look at it, this is NOT how business works and nor should it.

Look, we all make mistakes.

Some can be bloody massive ones.

Hell, I’ve made bloody millions.

But how you deal with those reveals who you really are and sadly, the industry is seeing quite a few people who don’t seem to believe this sort of behaviour is in any way wrong.

Sure this attitude might work for them in the short term.

Sure they can try and deflect and deny blame for as long as they like.

But while I was going to end this post about the more transparent the relationship, the better the work … I decided it would be better to end with two [paraphrased] pieces of advice I got from Dave Luhr, the now retired Chief Operating officer of Wieden+Kennedy.

For those people who know who I’m talking about, you will hopefully hear his voice as you read it … though in conversations with me, he would always start with “Campbell …”

“Anyone who thinks they were successful by themselves is an asshole”.

“No one does their best work for assholes”.

18 Comments so far
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Well said Robert. I particularly like David Luhr’s comment. An excellent observation. Am I wrong in assuming the case you are referring to is the one where I was able to help ensure justice was done?

Comment by Lee Hill

You would like Luhr, you have a lot in common when I think about it.

And yes, it’s “that” case. It’s the moment you went from being a great client in our eyes to amazing human. Hahaha.

Comment by Rob

Bizarrely we had an almost identical situation happen here relatively recently – of which your advice from back then formed the approach we had to this.

What’s bizarre is someone out of the industry said to me, “but you’ll burn bridges with them forever”.

They were genuinely surprised when I responded, “why on earth would I want to continue working with someone who behaves that way and devalues the relationship so much”.

I get NZ is a small country and there is a lot of interconnectedness, but fuck that …

Comment by Rob

Stealing work is revolting. Stealing work in a nation where the population is so small it will be noticed immediately, is stupid.

Comment by George

Yep. Though the reaction of the industry here is also fascinating. Let me tell you, NZ is a lovely place but the industry here is possibly the most toxic of any country I’ve lived in. But the weird thing is few are producing any work that comes close to allowing them that attitude … so it genuinely hilarious.

Comment by Rob

I assume it’s all anonymous comments? The classic sign of those who can’t stand up to the scrutiny they judge others by.

Comment by George

Hahahaha … you know it.

Also @Andy.

My team were just talking about you and Augustine said,

“He hates Rob”.

I know how happy that will make you. [Both in terms of them talking about you AND their view of you on me]

Comment by Rob

Smart team.

Comment by George

Performative hatred often hides more positive emotions.

Comment by John

and you still upgrade campbells flights. he should be cleaning your fucking shoes every day with his rancid tongue.

Comment by andy@cynic

i was more fucking insulted by the hacks they gave our work to. wankers.

Comment by andy@cynic

I miss working with you.

Comment by DH

On the positive Andrew, look at them now. Oh you can’t, because they are hidden after being used as a pawn in multiple mergers and acuqisitions.

Comment by George

Yes … that’s so true.

Comment by Rob

Hahahaha … that’s so true.

Comment by Rob

How about case studies that candidates have to do for job interviews? I was once asked to do several tasks that would need at least a few months under normal circumstances, but I had to complete all of them in a week. What made me even more angry was the hiring team (hiring manager and peers) kept adding more tasks each time we met/spoke. Some of the tasks sounded more like things the hiring team needed to do but didn’t want to do it themselves so they asked candidates to do it for them (e.g., invitation letter which was administrative and the role I interviewed for was a strategist role!)

So in the end, I had to turn them down and stopped doing more tasks for them!

The above company is a subsidiary of a BIG AIRLINE company!

Comment by AMHater

It is a questionable practice. It becomes exploitative when the task is related to a live project the potential employer is working on.

Comment by Pete

All the best client relationships I’ve seen were based on trust, and all the worst ones were based on lack of trust

Comment by Rob (The other one)

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