Blue Marlin may land the big fish but it’s not fair game

Writing as a principal of an Australian communication consultancy, I refer to ‘Blue Marlin in Australia Row’ (DW 10 December). Just because free-pitching, according to Blue Marlin managing director Andrew Eyles, ‘Is prolific in the UK and the whole industry’, does this justify giving your work away?

There is no doubt that the industry is competitive and congested and the value of a consultancy’s work has to be aligned with market forces. However, there are other ways to win work besides offering something for nothing.

I would have thought creativity, innovative thinking, the quality of the offer, combined with a sharp pencil, are the keys to successfully winning projects. Certainly that is our experience. And we all know there is no long-term viability in doing free work.

In my view, there is something very fishy about a consultancy like Blue Marlin doing free pitch work, then recovering the cost as a ‘later stage of development’. One can only presume that the client is aware of the debt recovery of the lure.

It’s hard to understand how Eyles can admit that free pitching ‘leads to a spiral devaluation of the industry’, but goes into print justifying it on the grounds of getting business. Are these the standards that we want the industry associated with?

Eyers might say that Blue Marlin encourages ‘clients to invest in design’, but there is a big difference between requesting and insisting on payment for creativity, just as there is a big difference between words and actions.

It is our experience that clients will provide an upfront fee, especially if it is mandatory for our participation, or it is reinforced by the united determination by all consultancies involved in the pitch. In fact, clients respect this professional position. It just takes guts to make a stand.

In summary, it is disappointing that Blue Marlin now has a black and white reputation for promoting the odious bait of the free pitch, as opposed to being judged on its ‘premium’ merits.

My consultancy, FHA Image Design, actively supports the protection of business ethics and industry standards of excellence, which will ensure long-term viability for all those involved with the commercialisation of creativity.

I commend the Australian Graphic Design Association for tagging this fish so that we can all see its colour.

Richard Henderson

Design partner

FHA Image Design

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