Whose work is it anyway? Are ad execs right to show off past work on their current agency website?

Following a storm out west last week, Mumbrella's Calum Jaspan asks whether advertising executives are right to show off previous work on their current agency website while looking at one example in particular.

Is co-opting of work rife amongst Australian agencies? (We’ll get your thoughts at the end)

After a Perth creative shop was called out last week for co-opting other agencies’ work as its own, Mumbrella has spoken to a number of industry executives to investigate the size of the issue.

Wildling is not the only agency to be accused of doing this, as The Brand Agency’s Steve Harris indirectly did last week.

It’s a challenge, particularly for smaller agencies, a raft of which popped up during the pandemic. How do you leverage the significant work your staff has been involved with across their careers, to help your new agency win clients?

A question has been posed to Mumbrella. Does there need to be clear industry standards for the attribution of work by agencies and individuals that worked on it?

CEO of the Advertising Council Australia, Tony Hale was clear in telling Mumbrella: “No agency should pass off another agency’s work as their own. If individuals wish to claim legitimate credits for work they have done at another agency, they should make the role they played in the development of the work very clear.”

Ad Council’s Tony Hale: ‘No agency should pass of another’s work as its own’

“Of course, it is reasonable to expect work displayed on an agency’s website was created by that agency,” an ad exec tells Mumbrella, without it being clearly signposted.

“Have the guts to put the agency you were at when you did the work,” another exec says.

Managing director of TrinityP3, global pitch consultant, Nathan Hodges tells Mumbrella, “We come across this all the time when managing pitches for our clients.”

“And it’s not like the clients don’t notice this stuff – they roll their eyes as much as anyone. The kind of work that everyone tries to claim is normally work that stands out, so of course a client team will spot it when 3-4 competing agencies try and take credit for the same success during the same pitch process.”

Hodges says he gets that at the start of its life, an agency needs to be able to talk about the track record of its people when they worked elsewhere.

“Marketers get that too – of course they do.”

“An agency simply needs to be upfront and super-clear about what is actually being claimed. It’s easy to do. But it’s so important because there’s nothing worse for an agency in a pitch than to look at all shifty or seem (accurately or not) that it’s hiding something. It poisons everything, right there and then.”

How clear is clear?

Following Friday’s story, many in the industry have come to Mumbrella, urging to take a look at the website of one agency, Milk + Honey United. They highlighted that its website shows no mention of any other agency for the work it displays there.

Mumbrella has looked into these concerns since then.

The agency, launched by Andy DiLallo and Steve Jackson in 2021 has a watermarked showreel on its website which features high-profile ad campaigns produced by Australian agencies the pair have worked at, intertwined with a couple of campaigns the new agency has produced.

Showreel page of Milk + Honey’s website, with no credit for agency work

Beginning with the agency logo, and then the words ‘Welcome to the land of Milk + Honey’, the video then shows campaigns for Smirnoff, Lexus, David Jones, Commonwealth Bank, Woolmark, Foxtel, Tourism NZ, Coca-Cola, WWF, Samsung, Apple, Toyota, McDonald’s, Bundaberg, Hyundai, Pepsi, Johnnie Walker, Thrify, and Nike. The campaigns were created by Australian agencies including Leo Burnett, TBWA, Innocean, Saatchi & Saatchi, and more while either Jackson or DiLallo was at them, without naming any of the agencies anywhere on the site.

Intertwined in the showreel, is work for James Squire, Raiz, Stacks Law Firm and Rosemary, completed by Milk + Honey with no differentiation between what work was and was not created by the agency.

When asked about this, managing director Hazelle Klonhammer tells Mumbrella: “All the work featured on our website was created by our founders Andy and/or Steve. Some of the work was created while they were at previous agencies, but this is clearly stated on our website.”

Three of the landing pages on the website, titled ‘Integrated’, ‘Film’, and ‘Print + OOH’, only display work created by the pair while at previous agencies, however, this is only signposted as a footnote at the bottom of each without naming any of the agencies that created the work.

Footnote present at the bottom of the three work pages

Klonhammer continues: “Our founders Andy and Steve are two of the most high-profile and experienced creative leaders in the country. Having run many of the nation’s largest agencies as well as creatively led many of the world’s most loved brands. The work shown reflects that.”

She adds that the same comment was not necessary alongside the agency’s showreel, “because that is created from some of the work already listed on the aforementioned pages”.

As of Tuesday, 15 November, there is no reference to any other Australian advertising agency on the website, that contributed to, or were responsible for the 40+ campaigns displayed there.

Additionally, on the ‘About’ section of the agency’s website, it lists awards including 110 Cannes Lions, an Agency of the Year award at Cannes Lions, 63 D&Ad Awards, 11 Gold Effies, Agency of the Year APAC at the CLIOs, and more, without caveating these were not won by Milk + Honey.

Awards listed on the About section of Milk + Honey’s website

“With regard to their awards, these are listed in the personal credentials section after Andy and Steve’s bios, so it’s very clear that is about what they have achieved throughout their careers,” said Klonhammer.

Tackling the issue

So who can take credit for this kind of work? Is it only the person who came up with the initial idea? Is it the work of the entire creative or account team? The agency as a whole? The client? Or should everyone involved be credited?

It also raises the question, can one individual claim credit for winning an Agency of the Year award, from the likes of Cannes Lions, or the CLIO awards?

So whose work is it anyway? 

Let us know in the survey link below what you think the minimum expectation should be when displaying past work.



Update: Since publishing, Milk + Honey has now added a note beneath its campaign reel, clarifying the campaigns were not all created by the agency.


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