GLA says it cannot pay for pitch work, amid London identity furore

The Greater London Authority claims that it is ‘not in a position to give a fee for pitch work’, following complaints about the way it is running a tender to create an identity for the capital.

‘Some consultancies have questioned whether it is ethical to ask for free creative work as this is not something that the Design Business Association perceives as ethical,’ says a GLA spokesman.

DBA chief executive Deborah Dawton describes the GLA’s demand for free creative work at the first stage of the tender as a ‘really crazy way of shortening the list of contenders’.

‘Swathes of leading-edge businesses which should be involved will have decided not to take part,’ she says.

Dawton is currently engaged in a series of Parliamentary meetings to review public procurement processes. She is advocating a diplomatic approach to tackling the issue.

‘There is no point in gunning for one organisation, because the practice of free pitching is rife. We should draw alongside Government to find a process that works for both parties instead of standing on our soap box yelling,’ says Dawton.

However, she does warn that if the Government continues to demand free creative work during design tenders ‘it will put design groups out of business’.

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  • 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 some suggestions 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.

  • Mike Neill November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    “The Government is calling for businesses in the design sector to offer work experience to school and college leavers looking for work in the field this summer.”

    http://www.designweek.co.uk/the-government-calls-for-more-work-experience/3004110.article

    In the same way as the GLA are ‘not in a position to give a fee for pitch work’, most agencies are not in a position to give FREE creative work – and why should we?

    Here’s an idea. Why don’t agencies use the Work Experience youngsters to work on the free creative pitches the government sector insists on?

    Everybody happy and the results no less insightful than the usual free creative pitches.

    Maybe they’d get the message.

  • Brian Minards November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    In Burton’s window the other day I saw a number of speculatively-made suits on the rails, none of which appealed to me.

    So I went into 10 bespoke tailors on Saville Row, all of whom measured me up and are making suits for me on the agreement that I will pay only for the one I like, but I get to keep the others in my wardrobe without wearing them.

    Did I really? Of course not!

    I’m trying it out with hotels next week, and then restaurants and accountants and solicitors… and petrol stations (pay the one whose petrol takes me to the nicest looking place).

    Wish me luck. But not everyone is as daft as designers are, so I may just come away empty handed.

  • Tristan Peters November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Pitching for free is bad for the industry but terrible for the client. Sure they may end up with a bunch of designs from which they can pick from, but will they truly address the brief? Will the ideas be thorough enough? Will the concepts be targeted enough? I very much doubt it.

    The competitive advantage of design can only be truly effective once the design team have a very thorough and considered understanding of the objectives of the project, without this understanding any designs produced will be hollow.

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

    We all know that if you do free pitch work, the “supposed client” will chose the idea they like the most and then get the lowest bidder to “do something like that” – it seems to be a way of finding a brief when the supposed client has no idea/to stupid to know how to write a brief.

  • Darren Evans November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    The GLA is not in a position to pay for pitch work because it put itself in that position by opening the brief to all and sundry. My guess is that if a small number of capable agencies were to have been shortlisted from a credentials pitch, money could have been available for creative pitch work. The majority of the public sector do not have the first clue about how to approach a project like this. The business capital of the world? not likely if that’s how you are going to treat one of your greatest assets.

  • Jean GROGAN November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    The last agency I worked with refused to respond to free pitches – with one exception, charities. We used to ask the new clients “Are you a Charity?”, which did the trick.

    The real difficulty is in getting people to accept that design is a real profession. The accepted feeling is, “it’s just a little doodle, I could do that”. In which case, give the client a Mac & let him get on with it.

  • John Stone November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    There are two points that are missing from this debate:

    First: it levels the playing field. Too many times only elite firms or individuals are asked to submit designs for public works. This bake-off style enables anyone – of any background – to submit their design. In that way, it is a spin-off of the London 2012 site that asked for logo submission (post-launch of Wolff Olins controversial identity design)

    Second: it will bring out the true believers. Design isn’t about cashing in. It’s about being part of something bigger. It’s about creating an emotional connection with the audience it is intended to serve. Just like the millions of starving artists out there, this exercise is genius in that the true believers will have an opportunity to submit their designs – regardless of their financial level or imprimatur.

    So, GLA: go for it. I won’t be submitting anything, but I applaud your efforts to equalize and spur creativity amidst these austere times.

    John Stone
    http://johnstone.tumblr.com/

  • Guto Evans November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    If they can’t afford to pay for a solution at pitching stage they shouldn’t get one, probably if they are not paying for it they will get a half cooked idea anyway! Why can’t organisations choose on pedigree and price, they think that free pitching is risk managment, I mean if you choose a design company and not get what you want sack them, and give another one a call!! The clint would say that this is wasting valuable time, but it would certainly make them think more seriously about their choice. It’s like asking 5 builders to build you a house, choose the one you like and knock down the rest, why is a designers thinking which is his commodity valued lower than a brick wall. There’a no one to blame here though except the design companies who participate in this, as long as someone will do free pitching it will always exist in our sector…..

  • Gareth Simpson November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    The way people are complaining about free pitching anyone would think that it is only the Design Industry that has to go through this process!
    I have worked on tenders for Private, Public and Military sector. To produce a tender document and prepare for a beauty parade is very costly and there is no guarantee of a result as most of the time it is down to relationships and people. One tender return for a Military contract took 5 people 3 months full time to complete… you do the maths!
    If anyone the larger design companies should be able to absorb the costs incurred through free pitching and it is the smaller design agencies that do not have resources to spend time on an expensive and time consuming pitch.
    I for one do not like to spend my time doing work for free when there is no guarantee of an outcome… perhaps the committee which will be choosing the winner should be working for free as well during the process? I bet they wouldn’t go for that… surprise!!!

  • mike horseman November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Free Pitching
    After 25 years of loyalty to the design business and 25 years of the same old story – there will never be a final solution to FREE PITCHING.
    However I have a simple compromise.
    We have tried it with several of our prospective clients over the years and it has been a success.
    It’s simple.
    A) Client selects a a trio of agencies
    B) Client must have budget in mind for project for this example say 20K
    C) Client agrees to pay a pitch fee say in this example 1K to cover costs for agency as an incentive to at least put creative pitch pencil to paper.
    D) Winning agency gets the remaining 17K to fulfill the project + their pitch fee 18K thanks very much job done.

    Conclusion – everyone wins to a certain degree and winner takes all bar a couple of grand which I’m sure most can adjust to in this economic climate.
    Worth a try.

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