Cheaper than whores in the marketplace

The majority of us agree that when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, nobody benefits from free-pitching, least of all the clients. However, the current debate is centred on the financial issues of win or lose, but what of the cost to our profession?

Unpaid creative pitching, and I emphasise the “unethical” pitch where the client wants creative proposals, is now at epidemic proportions and accounts for most pitches and tenders. It is being demanded by business, appears to be a standard requisite of central and local government, and has seeped down to contracts worth as little as 500.

To use a cliché that infers we are behaving like whores (DW 25 August) is a gross injustice to the oldest profession. Not even prostitutes free-pitch. Despite their line of work, they do not risk the worst excesses and gross contempt that such a trend would encourage in their clients. Yet the design profession is prepared to risk its reputation in desperate attempts to persuade clients to “pick me please”.

We must draw the line and regain control over how we perform and respond as a profession.

However difficult the market, we must not submit to this client-driven trend. If we do, we can expect our work to be valued at no more than that which we charged – precisely nothing.

We must collectively reject clients’ demands for free work under any circumstances.

I accuse the design profession of cowardice in the face of adverse market forces, the Chartered Society of Designers and the Design Business Association of neglect of duty to its members by sitting on the fence, and the Design Council of not tackling industry on its buying strategy.

It only takes a couple of pitches to see the insurmountable obstacles of a biased lottery, inadequate briefings, unfair and unlevelled playing fields, unrealistic expectations, the underlying politics and company favouritism.

I am sure most of us have been there, seen it, done it and (every five out of six) regretted it. Say no – you know it makes sense.

John Lloyd

Managing director

Acrobat Technology

London WC2

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