Please Steal My Idea!

So two weeks ago AutoZone, Memphis, which has more than 4,600 stores in the United States and Mexico that sell automotive parts and accessories, selected a new agency.  Spending was estimated at $60-$70 million.  A review for the account generated attention because AutoZone had asked the agencies that took part to agree to give up the rights to the intellectual property they created to try to win the assignment.

There wasn’t much outrage expressed by this because basically we have been giving our product away for years.  It is rare when we are clear in a speculative pitch that the agency pitch team owns the ideas.  If you have been dong this for awhile, you know you have often seen your concepts executed by others.

Most of us don’t distribute an explicit document that all presented is our property in a pitch.  And most in the industry gladly present speculative work knowing that five others are presenting their work. Why would a client not revel in this parade that devalues our worth and brings millions of dollars of value to customers for free?

But here is the dirty little secret. It doesn’t work…for anyone.

 While it is good to give a kernel of ideas and thinking to a client so they understand your thinking, less is more.  If you detail every plan all the way to execution, you leave no mystique or long-term value in your work.  You will frankly look desperate and valueless.

Furthermore, a client that chooses an agency based on the work presented at a pitch will invariably choose wrong. The best campaign is built collaboratively with a client, not one developed in a vacuum.

The chemistry with your agency team will be far more important than that in producing long-term great work.

And the work usually won’t work in the marketplace.

Agencies — Don’t give away your product.  If it is good it is worth millions to your client.  And the free work in a pitch environment?  Um…. I hate clichés but there is no better way to say it.  You get what you paid for.

About Rick Milenthal

I’m the Chairman of Engauge, one of the nation’s largest independent agencies. At Engauge, we leverage creativity and technology to develop transformational ideas that connect brands and people. Engauge, which has offices in Atlanta, Austin, Columbus, Pittsburgh and Orlando, is a portfolio company of Halyard Capital. Our client roster includes Nationwide Insurance, DAD’S Pet Care, The Home Depot, Best Buy For Business, Chick-fil-A, Brown-Forman, Food Lion, Van Gogh Vodka, and NGK Spark Plugs, among others. I’ve spent more than twenty-five years in the advertising and marketing industries. Before launching Engauge, I served as chairman of TenUnited and Worldwide Partners, Inc. This blog will focus on my everyday observations about marketing strategies and implementations. In particular, I’m interested in the ways that companies handle ideas: how inspiration begins, how it evolves, and how it translates in the real world. I’m looking forward to a conversation with you.
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