Schweppes agency apologises for asking professional models to enter free casting comp

Food fightOne of Australia’s largest public relations agencies, Professional Public Relations (PPR) has apologised after asking professional models to appear for free in a campaign for client Schweppes. The callout was criticised by model agencies who believe it devalues the work of their clients.

An intern at PPR’s Melbourne office sent a group email to more than 40 professional modelling agencies asking them to be involved in a “casting call” for the Schweppes Fancy Food Fight, urging them to enter clients into the competition on Facebook open to members of the public. The callout, forwarded to Mumbrella, says the models are for the Fancy Food Fight competition with the winners to be used in a TV commercial, filmed at a later date and makes it clear the models would not be paid for their involvement. The call for entries on the Facebook page has also been extended.

“We are calling for entrants to take part in the ‘Fancy Food Fight’- a fine dining experience like no other. There will be fine food from Martin Benn of Sepia Restaurant (3 hats!), fine fighting and fine filming (yes, those cast will participate in the filming of Schweppes new TVC).

“This is a great opportunity for your talent to take part in a really fun shoot! Please note, this is not paid – but is open to anyone available in Sydney on 24 February. (Bold in original text of email.)

Deborah Gray, head of Ava Model Management, immediately replied, CCing in the other 40 agencies and  lambasting the request for professional models to work for free. “Asking our professional models who rely on their earnings to do unpaid work for you for such an established commercial enterprise as Schweppes is not great PR,” wrote Gray.

“Sorry but we decline.” And Angela Ceberano, who is a director of Flourish Public Relations, which represents a number of celebrity clients, wrote: “I can’t believe an intern at PPR is sending out the below on behalf of Schweppes to ask talent to be in a TVC for free.

“I’d love to work for a business like Schweppes but the massive agencies like PPR get such clients and then disrespect them by having their interns working on the account.”

PPR told Mumbrella it was “simply attempting to use our networks to spread the word”, but conceded “our rationale was not made clear in the communication developed by our team, and for this we accept responsibility.”

In a statement, Bridget Marcou, GM of PPR Melbourne said:

“PPR apologises for inviting professional, paid models to participate for free in a campaign being developed for Schweppes.

“We acknowledge models contracted to professional modelling agencies earn their living from participating in television commercials. “We were simply attempting to use our networks to spread the word and hopefully pass on the opportunity for everyone to be involved in the campaign, should they choose.

“In this case, we extended the invitation to agencies with the purpose of offering anyone new to the industry a possible casting opportunity.  Unfortunately our rationale was not made clear in the communication developed by our team, and for this we accept responsibility.”

Gray told Mumbrella: “This is becoming a more and more common thing. It used to be that nobody would have the nerve to ask a professional agency and its models to do this.

“What is happening is that there is a spill over. I don’t think this is coming from the main bosses or at least I hope its not.

I think this is coming from less senior PR people who are younger who have been brought up marketing on Facebook and now almost every company will put out a little Facebook model search. It is a cheap way of getting models basically.”

GPY&R Melbourne, which has the creative account for Schweppes, declined to comment on whether it was involved in the campaign.

Mumbrella has chosen not to publish name of the intern.

Nic Christensen 

The original email from PPR. Click to enlarge.

The original email from PPR. Click to enlarge.

PPR Reply blurred

Some of the replies. Click to enlarge.


  1. Antonino Tati
    12 Feb 14
    2:46 pm

  2. Oh get over it; they’re getting a free meal out of it. And goodness knows, there are a lot of models out there that need to eat.

  3. Anonymous
    12 Feb 14
    2:57 pm

  4. Fair play to that intern. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

  5. Adrienne
    12 Feb 14
    2:57 pm

  6. Writers, animators and film crew in this country are asked to work for free everyday. In most cases it’s work for free or not at all. Exploiting creatives seems to be acceptable in this market.

  7. Beero
    12 Feb 14
    3:00 pm

  8. Shouldn’t people be more perturbed by the lack of using BCC on the email?

    When I’ve called for entries for photo competitions and similar events, professional photographers have been either supportive or if not, they simply don’t enter, rather than getting all precious about it. Agencies should chill out and only throw a hissy-fit if it becomes a commonplace practice perhaps, which I suspect it won’t.

    From someone in the glass half full community, it seems to be an opportunity for some irreverence and self-promotion (minus the substantial agency fees) for up and comers. They might even get to smile on this job!

  9. S
    12 Feb 14
    3:05 pm

  10. It’s a bit of an aside but what about the fact that the email wasn’t BCC’d?!
    I’d be annoyed if I was on the list and my address was shared with so many others.

  11. carole goldsmith
    12 Feb 14
    3:07 pm

  12. Adrienne, if people work for free, they place no value on their profession. All jobs need to be paid.

  13. Doughboy
    12 Feb 14
    3:08 pm

  14. It’s always an “intern” or “junior” that takes the fall for things like this.

    The originator of the idea should fess up.


  15. Anonymous
    12 Feb 14
    3:09 pm

  16. What’s even more interesting is PPR isn’t even Schweppes PR agency

  17. Paul Williams
    12 Feb 14
    3:11 pm

  18. Good to see some light shed on this, which is fast becoming a new normal for our industry. Photograhers are being asked to shoot for free every day now. Our involvement is much more time and money-consuming than that of the talent and steps need to be taken in shaming clients who devalue and disrespect what we have spent years and tens of thousands of dollars developing.
    Please do write an article about this specifically, Mumbrella – before there are only industry cowboys left to do the work!

  19. Anonymous
    12 Feb 14
    3:22 pm

  20. Disgusting. Models shouldn’t have to put up with the treatment we normally only inflict on junior creatives.

  21. Jack B Nimble
    12 Feb 14
    3:25 pm

  22. Next time I need a press release written or some publicity, I’ll see if “Professional” Public Relations would like the “opportunity” to do it for free.

  23. Beau Ushay
    12 Feb 14
    3:32 pm

  24. Really, Anonymous? It’s f*cking rude is what it is and the agency deserves to be called out for such behaviour, not congratulated for their bravery.

  25. Ash Long
    12 Feb 14
    3:34 pm

  26. PR agencies ask for free space in our newspapers every day. They are the ones who start e-mails with “just touching base”. They are getting paid for their work; why do they think a newspaper company should subsidise their clients’ advertising budget?

  27. Lesley
    12 Feb 14
    3:36 pm

  28. Mountains and molehills come to mind.
    who doesn’t want something for fress these days?
    Just look at the SMH campaign to create print and TV campaigns where you can sign away your rights for the mere chance at $2500!!!

  29. Spin It
    12 Feb 14
    4:15 pm

  30. I love how they blame it on the ‘Intern’. Good PR spin on that one.

    “Who do we blame?”

    “There must be an intern somewhere here.”

  31. Just wondering
    12 Feb 14
    4:18 pm

  32. So was the intern being paid?
    I suspect that not being paid is the new norm right across the industry.

  33. George Photios
    12 Feb 14
    4:20 pm

  34. @Beau – called out for their behaviour? For asking for a freebie? Please. Every person in every industry gets asked to do things for free. Why does the modelling industry need to be so touche about it?

    If an email was sent around to creative agencies to do something for free would it cause this uproar? Doritos did it with the Super Bowl. SMH did it for an anti-violence campaign. Noted that there were prizes on offer, but that makes it no different.

  35. Confused
    12 Feb 14
    4:23 pm

  36. Sometimes I just don’t understand.

    Recently I asked my builder if he could build my new veranda.
    I asked him to work for free and told him that if I liked the work that he did then I’d give him a chance at having a crack at my next house when I build it.

    Can you believe he told me to rack off!
    So I’ve told him, “You’re never going to work in this town again”.

    I’ve got to go I’ve got a meeting with the next builder in 5 mins.
    Surely I’ll find one that can build my veranda for free.

  37. Capitalist
    12 Feb 14
    4:43 pm

  38. Schweppes Australia’s turnover is in the range of $350Mill a year and they need to ask people to work for free to maintain that.

  39. B
    12 Feb 14
    5:20 pm

  40. @Ash Long: because presumably the PR company is offering something that is, or could be, considered to be news.

    If the media outlet thinks its newsworthy, they’ll run it. If they don’t, or the journalist doesn’t like ‘just touching base’ emails, they won’t run it.

  41. fleshpeddler
    12 Feb 14
    6:15 pm

  42. agencies asking suppliers to work for free….


  43. Anna
    12 Feb 14
    6:36 pm

  44. Finally this is being discussed, it is actually common place now and models do not have the same protections afforded to them that actors and extras have which are legislated by Equity rates. It’s easy to poke fun at a model and say they probably want a free meal, but no they need to be paid fairly whether freelance or with an agency, just like any other professional.

  45. Ann
    12 Feb 14
    7:56 pm

  46. It may have boosted their profile

  47. Anna
    13 Feb 14
    11:45 am

  48. Ann boosting public profiles doesn’t pay your rent it just makes you famous and poor – can’t think of anything worse

  49. Ash Long
    13 Feb 14
    11:55 am

  50. The notion of PR agencies producing PUFF that they claim to be newsworthy is a bad joke. As an Editor once yelled: “Where’s the news value in the opening of a bloody paint store?” PR agencies should show respect and pay the proper fare for column space (or time) just like everyone else does. @B: PR agencies should stop wasting their time, our time, and their clients’ money by trying to get free space. It is unbecoming.

  51. Sarah Mathiesen
    13 Feb 14
    3:03 pm

  52. @Ash Long – NO-ONE should be paying for column space; that would completely undermine the media industry’s ability to provide fair and balanced coverage (some may argue there’s already an imbalance in favour of those with deeper pockets, but that’s a debate for another time).

    A good PR agency should be educating its clients about what’s newsworthy and what would probably do better in the paid advertising column, so that journalists aren’t having their time wasted with pitches about paint store openings. To say that all pursuits for “free space” are a waste of time sounds terribly ignorant and I imagine many journalists would have a very hard time meeting their ever increasing demands without relevant tip-offs and resources supplied by PR agencies.

  53. EDEN
    13 Feb 14
    5:25 pm

  54. Not sure how this became about buying advertising space in mags or papers – (PR agents are not really in charge of paid adds for clients- its usually a marketing department who are given a budget and do those deals – BUT regardless the point is that in any advertising, or PR stunt the non client TALENT AND/OR MODELS brought in to APPEAR IN THE CLIENTS ADVERTISING OR PROMOTION OR ACTIVATION MUST BE PAID.