Lee Clow: Agencies devalue their worth, not procurement

By By Wenlei Ma | 15 October 2012

The detrimental influence of procurement departments is never far from the lips of those in advertising, but legendary adman and TBWA Worldwide chairman Lee Clow said agencies only have themselves to blame.

In a live video address to Caxtons delegates on Saturday morning, Clow said agencies have allowed their creative work to be devalued.

He said: “It’s a huge frustration for me but we allowed it to happen to ourselves. Our business people are so uncreative in terms of figuring out how to get paid for what we do. We walk in there and just get smacked every time because we don’t know how to charge for ideas and we don’t know how to charge for lasting equities we create on behalf of our brands.

“We haven’t stood up for ourselves and it’s our own fault. Every other creative industry, be it the film or music business, has figured out ways to own their art – ultimately if they’ve done something beautiful and successful, they get paid in perpetuity.”

Clow gave the example of long-lasting brand taglines and positions such as BMW’s ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’ and the California Milk Board’s ‘Got Milk?’ which have perpetuated either beyond their original client parameters or the agency which created it. He argued, in instances such as these, the agency which developed the concept should be paid something akin to royalties.

“We should own the intellectual property we create and get paid for it and be able to manage it when it’s used.

“We just give away the idea so we blame these bean counters that come in and are now able to be part of our contractual negotiations, is our own fault, we never drove the hard bargain. That we are valuable and you want to hire us, we don’t charge the same as the agency down the street that isn’t as good as us. We don’t charge the same as the three agencies you decided not to pick. It’s not their fault, it’s our fault,” he said.

Goodby Silverstein & Partners’ Jeff Goodby added: “The problem is procurement departments don’t understand what we do and why it’s valuable. The only thing they understand is how to make things less expensive and until they get people who do understand why it’s valuable, we have to force them to understand.”

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