GLA hit by backlash over London identity tender

Consultancy Lambie-Nairn is boycotting the Greater London Authority’s competition to find a logo and new branding for London as part of a backlash about how the tender is being run. The tender asks for unpaid creative work in the first round.

‘There must be hundreds of consultancies spending money doing creative on this, and yet you cannot even talk to anyone at the client end about the brief,’ says a Lambie-Nairn spokeswoman. ‘The best you can do is e-mail questions.’ She adds that the tender compares ‘very badly’ to the London 2012 Olympics identity tender, ‘and yet this is even more high-profile and complex’.

The brief calls for ‘a visionary, challenging’ brand that will reflect London as a place to ‘visit, study and do business’ and communicate the ‘breadth and depth of London’s story’.

‘The tender is potentially a lovely PR story for the GLA, and it will produce some beautiful design, but free creative pitching does our industry a disservice,’ protests Lambie-Nairn chief executive Christian Schroeder. ‘It allows people to believe that we can come up with meaningful design based around some pretty creative work.’

Appetite, which branded the GLA when it was established in 2000, is also ‘unlikely’ to bid, according to the consultancy’s owner Laura Haynes.

‘It is interesting that there are people in the industry willing to say, “Let’s do this”, but, quite frankly, we are very busy professionals and consider this tender disrespectful to London,’ says Haynes. ‘We respect the GLA and the branding of London too much to go at it in such a cynical way.’

Wally Olins’ group Saffron Brand Consultants is entering the competition, but declines to comment on the tender.

Interbrand did not confirm whether it was bidding or not, but global chief executive Jez Frampton says, ‘I am sure the GLA has good reasons to structure the tender this way. Sometimes free-pitching can help the process if you are using it as a means to understand how the consultancy will work with you.’

Also bidding is Moving Brands, which is publicising every element of its bid on a blog and Twitter, and asking the public for ideas.

The consultancy is collaborating on the project with Scott Thomas, design director for the Barack Obama election campaign, which used social networking to great advantage.

A brand for London brief:

  • The GLA asks that London’s new branding should promote it as:
  • The business capital of the world
  • Europe’s number one city for culture
  • The place to study for international students
  • A leading centre of research, science and technology
  • A leading centre of the creative industries, especially film
  • A low-carbon capital
  • The number one city for inward investment
  • The world’s number one visitor destination
  • The number one place to live and work
Hide Comments (18)Show Comments (18)
Comments
  • Brian Minards November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    If every design company had the guts to take a stand like Lambie-Nairn is doing the shaky circumstances surrounding public tenders would be eradicated. Asking for free solutions has been going on for many years and we still don’t seem to have learned our lesson!

    What sort of brief is: The brief calls for ‘a visionary, challenging’ brand that will reflect London as a place to ‘visit, study and do business’ and communicate the ‘breadth and depth of London’s story’?

    And how can it be answered in full if the companies pitching are not involved in anything but a lottery. The result without in-depth research and interrogation will risk taking a cosmetic, tender-winning approach.

    Why not ask for an educated credentials pitch from design companies that are capable of handling such a brief? And then award it on past performance with full confidence.

  • Alexander Lloyd November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I find it astounding that reputable agencies will fall for the spec work trap in an attempt to pick up a paying job. This is the kind of approach a local not for profit group might use, giving school students the chance to design a logo or tee shirt with no payment on offer other than a mention in the local newspaper. Unprofessional and pretty insulting really – design professionals deserve compensation for any creative work they undertake when commissioned by a client and being in a recession is no excuse for people to start doing freebies for such an important branding exercise. And I’m not just being a precious creative…. try employing a lawyer, doctor or architect this way and see what calibre of results you get.

  • Aaron Shields November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I’m all from competition but I am not for pitching for free.

    Pitching devalues work unless it is paid for by clients. This affect is well documented in psychological journals and there is no point debating it. If clients continually get something for nothing, their estimation of the item (the pitch work) will be zero. They may appreciate other components in the mix i.e. the people they met, the excitement of the process, the glossy presentations, but they will not appreciate the effort that went into it and will simply figure that ‘this is the reality of the way the industry works’.

    Of course, we have the power to shape our own reality.

    As an agency, we have made the decision to never pitch for free. We win design projects, advertising contracts and strategy work… all without pitching. It certainly does exclude us from some projects. But I find that it also connects us with more people who actually value work from agencies. We don’t waste our time with prospects that do not value creative people enough to commit themselves to a process based on criteria other than our acquiescence to give something for nothing.

    Despite our no-pitch rule, we are still able to build our reputation, win exciting and interesting work and attract top talent. If anything, our no-pitch rule wins kudos with clients and talent.

    The temptation to pitch from creative people is clear. Winning work is hard. Winning great work is even harder. Being a skilled creative person does not necessarily mean you will have what it takes to win the work during the prospecting stage. So, for those that cannot speak from the perspective of the client enough to win the work, they choose to put effort into doing what they do best.

    There is room for this approach, but it limits the potential of creative since it is always created in the vacuum of the creative person’s head. If a person does not have the knowledge, skill or empathy to understand the clients perspective and business enough to win the work, then the resulting creative work, if won through a pitch, will also not reflect the client’s reality as much as a creative person who does.

  • jon kemp November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    If you ask me the brief needs re-writing…….

  • derek Johnston November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Free pitching isn’t pleasant, least for smaller agencies who cannot afford to take the investemnt hit, which seems contrary to the spirit of the GLA’s manifesto.

    However, I’d say that the free pitching aspect of this debate is less important than the lousy brief.

    Agencies wouldn’t have to spend weeks, or at least wouldn’t mind developing unpaid work if the brief was engaging, fun and vibrant. For a seasoned Londoner like myself, the whole project just sounds depressing. That’s why I wouldn’t bother.

  • Aaron Easterbrook November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I agree with Christian Schroeder that it is impossible to build a meaningful brand in retro and thereby add meaning to an aesthetic after it has been created. To truly reflect any content means there has to be a passage of understanding before creative work can commence … free pitching is nothing more than a beauty parade that encourages clients to think of design as a commodity.

    On top of that free pitching takes place is because there are only a handful of good commissioners in marketing jobs who know what ‘good’ design is. They mask their lack of knowledge by asking as many designers as possible to pitch in the hope they see something they think will work … by participating in process and dialogue driven approach will potentially highlight their flaws and hand power (as in the old days) to the designer.

    Free pitching is also a contradiction to the integrity most designers are so protective over. How do designers expect clients to respect them as specialists when they have already got what they wanted for free. It’s like putting out on the first date!

    I feel this argument will run and run until some sort of regulation comes into practice but I think that will be the day comic sans is universally loved!

  • Kenny November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    they don’t know what they want untill they see it,don’t want to pay anything, they want to cherry pick,it is insulting to designers.they are exploiting economic conditions- give it a miss and concentrate on paying clients.

  • Andrew Budell November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I agree with jon kemp. The brief needs to be re-written. How can a reportable agency invest so much thinking time on a brief – which at best – based on a sweet shop ‘lucky dip’? They call for ” a visionary, challenging’ brand…”, but what exactly in the brief will help them to create this… all they can expect to receive is glossy presentations, which for free, is a bit much. They should award the work based on credentials and previous wins.

  • Jackie Hawkins November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Hear hear! Balls to free pitching, I say! Its insulting, archaic and undervalues the industry as a whole. Please, for once, would all agencies just join together, be a collective voice for the industry and say NO! Otherwise, how will anything ever change?
    Engaging in the free pitch process basically reduces creative agencies to the status of ‘supplier’, rather than a ‘partner’ with a full repertoire of intellectual thinking, experience and honed creative process behind them.
    And how many years has it taken us to try and change this mindset amongst our current clients, let alone new clients?
    The design industry of all industries should not be going backwards, it should be looking forwards!
    If you are taking part: shame on you!

  • Aaron Easterbrook November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I agree with Christian Schroeder that it is impossible to build a meaningful brand in retro and thereby add meaning to an aesthetic after it has been created. To truly reflect any content means there has to be a passage of understanding before creative work can commence … free pitching is nothing more than a beauty parade that encourages clients to think of design as a commodity.

    On top of that free pitching takes place is because there are only a handful of good commissioners in marketing jobs who know what ‘good’ design is. They mask their lack of knowledge by asking as many designers as possible to pitch in the hope they see something they think will work … by participating in process and dialogue driven approach will potentially highlight their flaws and hand power (as in the old days) to the designer.

    Free pitching is also a contradiction to the integrity most designers are so protective over. How do designers expect clients to respect them as specialists when they have already got what they wanted for free. It’s like putting out on the first date!

    I feel this argument will run and run until some sort of regulation comes into practice but I think that will be the day comic sans is universally loved!

  • jj November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    What a waste of public money – whats the purpose of spending huge sums of money rebranding something that will be rebranded again come the next change in mayors.

    SHAME ON YOU MR RITTERBAND!!!!!

  • Fishgun November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    WANTED:

    20+ Leading edge design, marketing and branding agencies, with previous exposure to multinationals, government agencies and experience of investigating and communicating highly complex and finely balanced corporate and/or geopolitical concerns, aspirations and ideals.

    YOU WILL:

    a) Invest significant amounts of time and money in a thorough investigation of the relationship between commerce, culture, education, history and myth, culminating in a considered, multi faceted representation of modern life in one of the world’s greatest cities.

    b) Significantly contribute to the ongoing devaluation of creative efforts as previously experienced within the music, film and software industries.

    c) Undermine the very essence of that which the project seeks to celebrate – namely the energy and vibrancy of the world’s creative and economic hub.

    WE WILL:

    a) Supply a brief which appears to have been arrived at by committee determined to include everything including the kitchen sink.

    b) Not establish any meaningful criteria by which to evaluate your work.

    c) Allow wholesale misrepresentation of the rationale for the chosen solution in all subsequent media interaction.

  • Barry Seelig November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    The “Star Name” consultancies can slip the costs into their PR budgets if they don’t win the project. Professional ethics take second place to
    making money. Hopefully all that do enter can be outed and added to ‘The Design Hall of Shame’.

  • Stephanie Brown November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    And let’s not forget the public backlash will undoubtedly ensue when the logo is eventually launched. I can just see the headlines now: “London wastes taxpayers money with six figure logo during worst recession of our generation”.

    If the GLA is doing this to get a free solution, without giving the agencies access to Londoners’ and tourists’ opinions, and without going through a rigorous process that challenges the brief, then the solution will fail to engage with the key ‘customers.’

    What’s wrong with the current LondON identity? To me, this reeks of our esteemed mayor bidding for a vainglorious attempt to ‘make his mark’. A total waste of public funds.

    To all agencies considering responding to this brief – if you think that winning this could be a fabulous reputation building exercise and worth the investment, then think again. Stick together with Lambie Nairn and boycott this thing!

    http://www.onpointemarketing.com

  • Julien Lesage November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Take a look at this video which satirises this situation. I guarantee that all you designers will recognise it with a smile.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2a8TRSgzZY

  • James Bull November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I can’t help but agree that free work is not a good idea… nor is free pitching the best possible way to start creating truly brilliant design or branding. But, isn’t the issue wider than this? Does it not strike anyone else that in the same way that the music industry has had to completely embrace new ways of making music and totally re-construct the way music is bought and sold (almost totally due to digital and online technologies), that WE as the design industry are soon if not already facing the same challenge? Wont what we currently do for free become something that we bill for? Wont what we currently bill for be given away for free? We are all going to need to make a massive leap in terms of the way we create and do business in design in order to be successful.

    In reply to the suggestion that we as agencies need to “join together” and become “a collective voice” to stop free pitching sounds a bit ridiculous to me – as agencies we have different offers, different ideologies, different skills, different ways of working, different ways of engaging with clients, different ways of billing and most of all different creative ideas and outputs – and it’s this difference that is key to a thriving industry. To suggest that any company pitching for free shouldn’t is crazy – if an agency chooses to pitch it is up to them – it’s not for the ‘industry’ to decree this wrong or right. It is for individual agencies to make the call. I believe having a common way of working and an industry wide agreement on things such as pitching is far from positive – in fact it would be stagnating and negative for our industry and clients.

    Pitch for free or not the choice is yours.

  • Jamie Brassett November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Working for free is wrong. It’s as simple as that; from making students or recent graduates work for free in unpaid internships, to free-pitching; whether you’re the owner asked to expend creative energy without remuneration, or the new kid in the studio. Just stop it.

  • Remda November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Saffron is the worst business in Europe. They constantly neglect to pay their freelancers and never finish a project on time or on spec (ask them about SwissRe!). Hopefully London doesn’t let them touch their Brand.

  • Post a comment

Latest articles