I got 99 problems, but a pitch ain’t one. UBA, ACC and UMA jointly signed a charter on 7 May 2019 that can serve as a guide in the organization of competitions, or the so-called pitches. Sirius Legal supports this initiative, which is needed in a (creative) sector in which few formal rules apply and in which agencies are sometimes played unfairly against each other. As a law firm, we often handle copyright disputes arising from competitions, and where we sometimes look with surprise at the lack of transparency in the sector. An Haenen, our Operations Manager, worked for years in agencies and often witnessed very time-consuming pitch procedures that are not paid at all, and where the selection procedure was anything but transparent. According to her, the market was expecting a code of conduct since a long time and she finds it, together with us, a relief for the entire advertising market.

What is in the charter?

The key role of every agency is to design successful strategies and/or products for brands. However, organizing a pitch is often a time-consuming process (even for an ad hoc project) in which many resources are invested that cannot be recovered. However, the best results can only be achieved if a good partnership can be developed between the agency and the advertiser. The charter therefore stipulates that from now on tenders will be based on 3 principles, namely: transparency, responsibility and honesty.

What does this actually mean for clients?

If the potential income for the winning agency is less than EUR 25,000 (or EUR 50,000 for a media agency), a chemistry meeting and the agency’s credentials should be sufficient to make the right choice. If the potential income exceeds EUR 25,000 (or EUR 50,000 for a media agency) then the client makes a long list that is reduced to a short list of up to 3 agencies for the final selection (or 4 if the current agency is also invited) . Not unimportant: only agencies that have a real chance may be invited.

These 3 agencies receive a clear and complete briefing that includes detailed background information, the precise purpose of the tender, description of the services to be delivered, budget, the number of agencies contacted and their names, planning of the selection process, reimbursement of costs for non-selection, …

In case of very sensitive information, the client may request to sign a confidentiality agreement.

Moreover, sufficient time must be provided between the briefing and the presentation, whereby the charter also proposes specific timings and provides a cost reimbursement that can be agreed as a compensation for the pitch. The participating agencies must also be informed in advance about the way in which they will be assessed.

Finally, the charter stipulates that all pitches and recommendations are confidential and remain the (intellectual) property of the participating agencies.

What does this actually mean for agencies?

The recommendations for agencies are based on the 3 principles: transparency, responsibility and honesty. This implies, among other things, that agencies commit themselves to giving clients access to all necessary information that guarantees equal treatment of all parties, such as an exhaustive list of conflicting customers, indication of the agency’s contribution, business and financial commitments with subcontractors or suppliers, media management and technical service providers, indication of the agency’s contribution in the cases presented, etc.

In addition, agencies undertake to participate in the tender in a responsible and fair manner by demonstrating a genuine commitment to the client, prohibition of agreements between the agencies that compete, respect for the decision-making process, etc.

Conclusion

Sirius Legal supports this initiative of UBA, ACC and UMA and is convinced that this charter can lead to a change in mentality within the sector.

For example, providing a cost reimbursement for agencies that compete in a tender today is unfortunately the exception. However, such a fee could improve the quality of the pitches and tenders. Another interesting element is the commitment of the clients to respect the copyright of the agencies. Although this makes perfect sense, it does not seem obvious in practice. A final important point is the clarity that is being asked from both sides regarding the tender. An optimal information provision could improve the quality of tenders and moreover reduce the cost for the agencies.

The full charter can be found via the following link .