Don’t dodge the Plagiarism & Pitch bullet!

06 Nov,2019


By Sanjeev Kotnala

Plagiarism and creative coincidence have survived far too long in the Industry. Sometimes pitches have been blamed and many times inability to act has been the favourite excuse. Many times they have been termed as inspired and adapted versions.

The recent high profile case created a few conversations. Trade portals, social media and business newspapers recorded and reflected many points of views. And then, the calm settled in. The conversation moved to a new subject.

I am here trying to keep the conversation going. May be it will someway help to generate some momentum and discussion on the subject.

We once again are dodging the bullet. 

We believe it won’t happen to me, or at least I am not the one doing it. In the worst-case scenario, I can’t do anything about it. We won’t act. However, we will expect colleagues and the Industry to support us when it happens.

None of us has the answer. Even the solution I shared a few weeks back is a non-starter. I searched for inspiration, and I found it in work ‘Don’t Dodge The Bullet’ by a young Canadian agency called ZULU ALPHA KILO.

Only collective action can rein Plagiarism.

It will keep raising its ugly head again and again unless we the industry collectively decides to bite the bullet. There is no escape till the time pitches are speculative, till they are not based on processes and demonstrated capabilities. Or till the time agencies keep making speculative ideas pitches in the name of new business development. And consulting firms keep winning the pitches. Sound familiar watch this data – data approach.


Maybe it’s time to ditch spec creative! Don’t think it is going to happen. I have myself been part of this circus, and it is tough for individual agencies to break the cycle. However, I am happy that some of the agencies are in reality, refusing to do speculative pitches and pitch without a fee.

The problem of Plagiarism can only be addressed collectively through industry-approved process and guidelines. And when the leading agencies and clients set an example for others to follow.


Yes, I am borrowing from Zulu Alpha Kilo. I love this Agency and its way of raising industry issue while self-promoting itself.

So, I blatantly pick this gem from their site, “Architects don’t give away their blueprints. Diners don’t fork out free meals. Personal Trainers don’t sign over their intellectual property on spec’. It is part of the brilliant video poking fun at the speculative pitches and the process.

May be it is time for us to look at Zulu Alpha Kilo to share the insights at Goafest. The Agency has rallied  against creating spec work for potential clients. Watch the video and this time think a bit more than smiling and laughing.


Pitches are essential, but the process needs tweaking.


Suggest the clients and agencies visit It is a website by who else but Zulu Alpha Kilo. Here, you will find ways for the client and the Agency to improve the pitch process.

We are, in fact, tired of listening to the same Sh*t. Just like politicians, everyone mouths the same emotions; we are looking for a relationship. In truth, they land-up evaluating the transaction. The result, the client is dazzled by the pitch creative and has orgasm discussing how it will win awards and they also work for the brand. The partnership is all but buried at this stage.

In some cases, the deal (yes, I said deal) does not go through. The client, because of no possible backlash, presents the creative as a brief to the Agency. They give enough directional ideas and successfully nudge the Agency to create a version similar to the one that gave them orgasm during the pitch process. Being a co-created process, the lines are blurred, and everyone ( except the two parties who know the truth) believes it is original work. Anyway, no one questions the similarity. And if someone does talk, the conversation dies in no time.

The Agencies Must Collectively Decide.

In HTA, young joiners’ were asked, if they wanted to be a doctor or a tailor. You don’t question a doctor, like Mohammed Khan, Piyush Pandey, or Ivan Arthur. Or be a tailor, where you tell him, how long the trousers should be, what kind of pockets it must have to the extent od how many belt loops should be there. We know where the Industry has moved.

Now, the question is different. And I love the way it is expressed simply in the website.

But agencies aren’t cattle. When a client invites everyone and their kitchen sink to a pitch, it’s a clear signal to us that they have no idea what they want from a potential partner”. Or maybe they are

It is clear that when a client calls more than 3-4 agencies for a pitch, it is a clear reflection that the client has not done the homework. They don’t know what type of Agency they want and need.

Maybe There Is A Way Out.

Maybe the clients should engage a consultant to understand their needs and culture and narrow down the field for them to evaluate. They could share the process and criteria of evaluation. Restrict the pitch to a maximum of 3 agencies.

The pitch should be for the process and demonstrated capabilities, not speculative ideas. If ideas are presented, the agencies must get a date-stamped and presentation signed by both the Agency and the client. These should be upped on a cloud-based archive managed by an Industry body.

Till this is done, the physical presentation docket could be signed and archived.

We will at least be able to fix one of the co-ordinates. It will be clear, who presented the idea to whom and on which date. The question of similarity, creative coincidence, idea shopping and possible penalties should then be discussed.


Zulu Alpha Kilo is the young Agency that won Ad Age’s 2017 International Small Agency of the Year and 2016 Small Agency of the Year (the first time the overall honours has gone to a non-U.S. shop). The Agency keep doing work as self-promotion that makes a statement about real life in the Industry. Here watch Zulu Alpha Kilo created most terrifying (and humorous) recruiting video, called Scared Straight: Out of Advertising. It was made for Strategy magazine’s Agency of the Year event. Geared towards wide-eyed ad students entering the workforce. It was before the famed “Say No to Spec” spot.

And here are the four rules Zulu Alpha Kilo thinks may work.


ZULU ALPHA KILO pitching for Trump and Clinton business in a humorous note but in an insightful way.



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