Money, they say, is at the root of all evil. It seems to be the instigator, anyway, in the very public dispute playing at Lintas India Pvt. Ltd between its chief Prem Mehta and national creative director R. Balakrishnan (Balki). The latter reportedly did not get any pay-out when the agency’s employee-trust shares were sold to its global holding company, IPG, since he’s a creative consultant.
Some may, however, argue that Balki deserves his share since he has helped build the equity of many brands such as Surf, Pepsodent and Fair and Lovely over the years at Lintas, and, in the process, helped grow the equity of the agency brand. So what if he’s busy making a film too these days?
This is not a pro-Balki musing. To me, this fallout goes beyond power play or personal animus. It spotlights the vulnerability of creative folks, yes, even tough guys like Balki, to the global machinery, clients and inequitable payment systems.
It particularly emphasizes the need for advertisers to pay agencies and creatives a royalty fee for their big ideas, each time their ad or the idea is re-used in any format. We’ve all swooshed over Nike’s rousing ad line “Just do it”. Think about it—if its ad agency and creator Dan Wieden had royalty rights to the idea, they would hit pay dirt each time the swoosh ticked across media vehicles, merchandise such as shirts, shoes, et al.
If there are patents and intellectual properties for the science and knowledge streams, then why should creatives get the short end of the stick? If advertisers and agencies are truly equal partners at the communications table, then why can’t ideas-creators also get some part of their advertisers’, and even agencies’, rising brand fortunes? Besides, client-agency relationships were stronger and longer before. Now, clients divorce their agencies in a much shorter time-span and another agency-partner reaps the fruit of the idea.
In certain Latin America countries, for example, the client pays the agency and creatives a royalty of 20% of media spend for every reuse of its idea.
The big idea is priceless.
Of course, clients will object. “We’ve already dished out fat fees for the agency’s talent and time; the work they produce is our copyright,” they say. So, creatives have signed over copyright to both client and agency. The biggest challenge would be deciding which idea is “big”. For creatives such as Balki, equity issues in more ways than one will cloud the future.
Marion Arathoon is Mint’s advertising editor. Your feedback is welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org