IPA sets pitch protection code

New pitch guidelines aimed at preventing advertisers from stealing ideas from agencies have been unveiled by the Institute for Practitioners in Advertising.

The main thrust of the Pitch Protocol guidelines is the protection of ideas. The IPA has launched an intellectual property rights database, which will allow agencies to register their ideas, hopefully preventing clients from using them following an unsuccessful pitch.

The new guidelines include a questionnaire for clients to help agencies communicate best practice to the client, a post-pitch evaluation form to enable agencies to get constructive feedback on the pitch process, in addition to a non-disclosure agreement obliging both parties to keep ideas and information discussed in the pitch confidential.

This year, a number of cases of clients stealing ideas have come to light. One media agency head, who preferred to remain anonymous, pitched for a piece of business but lost out, being told by the client that the ideas he put forward during the pitch process were too risky.

“The client then went on to use those ideas with another agency,” he said.

It is hoped that the guidelines will prevent similar incidents occurring. Registrations on the rights database will be given a IPA certificate of registration, which logs the idea and its date.

“It gives a little bit of peace of mind in case there’s a dispute,” said Neil Christie, chairman of the IPA’s new business group and managing director of creative agency Wieden & Kennedy.

Some agency bosses suggested that enforcing the guidelines will be the biggest hurdle – particularly for media agencies.

While it is easy to identify an abuse from a creative perspective, however, copyrighting a media idea is trickier.

“If an agency suggests using a furry glove puppet, then the client goes on to launch a campaign with a furry glove puppet, it’s easy to track the origin of the idea,” said Marc Mendoza, chief executive of Media Planning Group. “But if I tell someone to use this kind of media and they do, it’s very hard for me to say ‘that was my idea’.”

The IPA will only recommend that clients and agencies use them, stopping short of censuring those that fail to abide by them.

While agency bosses welcomed the move, some were doubtful of its impact in the current “dog-eat-dog” environment.

The competitiveness in the industry means that there will always be someone who will break ranks.

“It’s important to raise awareness of the issue but I don’t know how enforceable the guidelines will be,” said PHD managing agencies offering free holidays and offering to do business free for the first six months in order to shortcut the pitch process.

“All sorts of desperate practices are used by agencies,” Christie said.

It is hoped that the guidelines will also prevent clients from calling pitches at the last minute and lengthening their pitch lists unnecessarily.

Christine Walker, chief executive of Walker Media, said that a pitch is often a “nightmarish scenario” in which agencies are given far too little time to prepare and in which interference by consultants often hinders good work.

The IPA is also encouraging agencies to seek a contribution towards the costs of pitches, but adds that it is difficult to say what those costs should constitute.

“Often clients expect copyright if they pay towards cost,” said Christie.

By Clare Goff

The Newspaper Society joins IPA in pushing qualifications

The legacy of outgoing IPA president Stephen Woodford will be the introduction of professional qualifications into the industry.

As the IPA beefs up its offering in this area, The Newspaper Society is also getting in on the act.

Its National Sales Qualification is relaunching as the Media Skills Qualification to make it useful to a broader range of sales people.

“The changes recognise that the skills involved in selling to national advertisers are not so different to selling to local operators,” said a spokesperson for The Newspaper Society.

“The content of the course is continuously renewed to reflect change in the industry and the needs of sales professionals who are required to move with it,” said David Newell, director of The Newspaper Society.

Under the old name, the course has produced a total of 127 graduates over a five-year period

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