claiming work that isn’t your own

Just the other day we had two art directors in to interview. They were both from the same agency and neither knew that the other was interviewing here…and they both showed, as their self-selected favorite piece of their work, the same thing.

Having interviewed the two back to back, I expressed surprise that the second person presented it as his. He was more junior and, after all, the woman before had just chosen it as her favorite. I know that teams work on campaigns and all that, and that more than one person can sometimes claim responsibility for some work, but this piece was singular in design, thinking and the like.

And anyway, you know when it is fair to claim the work as your own and when it isn’t.

In this case it wasn’t. The guy asked why I was surprised the he showed me the piece of work in question and I told him; I said that someone I had just interviewed had shown the same piece and claimed it as her own. He proceeded, with great fervor, to tell me that it was completely his design and to walk me through the complete concepting process, discuss in detail the contributions of the rest of the team and to tell me about production and results. Being that guy, I had to ask the woman who had also claimed the work what her role in it was. Predictably, she hemmed and hawed and talked about a team effort and her work in overseeing its development.

We’ll hire the work-stealer anyway, I am sure. We make retarded personnel decisions here at the House of Biz.

I was reminded of this situation when I was reading Ad Broad’s blog and she had posted on a company that allows you to order memorabilia from famous colleges. So, say you wish you went to Princeton…just go to the company’s website and order the keyring, or the watch with the insignia, or even the engraved pewter frame that you can put on your desk to show your colleagues that you really are an Ivy League grad even though you use double infinitives and can barely used your telephone.

That is the account person version of what the art director I interviewed did.

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2 responses to “claiming work that isn’t your own

  1. I remember when this happened to me.
    I was in to see a recruiter at one of the better agencies at the time and she was looking over my book and said “oh, you did this ad with X. I just saw it in X’s book.”
    And I sputtered “it’s in X’s book? This ad?”
    And the recruiter just smiled and said “Yes. X said they loved working with you guys.”
    I let it go– I didn’t want to come off the wrong way– but f**k!
    I raced out of there and called my art director who also couldn’t believe X had claimed the ad.
    Because while X was in the room when I came up with the headline, X was a freelancer who’d been filling in while I was on a shoot and was gone the next day.
    X did not sell the ad. Or write the body copy. And wasn’t in the room for the other 2 ads that filled out the campaign.
    In fact, I wasn’t quite sure how X had even bothered to get a copy of the ad.

    Over time, DB, I learned that shit happens. People claim stuff that isn’t theirs all the time. Just because they were in the room. Or tweaked the layout. Or worked on an ad that was part of the same campaign.

    I err the other way. I’ve never quite figured out a way to take credit for something a team working for me did. I mean it’s their ad, not mine. All I did was maybe make a suggestion or point them in the right direction and help sell it.

    But I seem to be a distinct minority.

  2. Thanks for the shout out, Daily Biz. (typing this under the weight of my new Duke class ring.)

    @Toad–re:CD’s taking credit for work of subordinates. Years ago, when I was an Ad Babe, the only spot I had on my reel was for a kitchen cleaning product, lots of supers and a dancing bottle. I hated that spot, but had been pressed to do it by the creative director I was working for–as he predicted, it tested really, really well. Naturally, I was looking to make a move and when I showed my reel (spool) to the headhunter, she said that my CD had the same spot on his reel. I was shocked that a CD would want crap like that on his reel, but thought nothing more about it until weeks later when I received a typwritten letter from the CD (who’d been recently fired) in my home mailbox in which he accused me of lifting his spot and threatening me if I didn’t remove it. Every time I reread the letter, i wanted to take a shower…

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