Pays for ideas, not execution: Arches asks global shops to share

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McDonald's Chief Global Marketing Officer Larry Light, CEO Mike Roberts and Senior VP-Global Brand Business Dean Barrett plan to spend February and March meeting with agencies in the marketer's top 10 countries, much the way the company did when in seeking a global idea for the "I'm lovin' it" campaign. Only this time, there won't be a single winning effort to be shipped around the world.

Rather, Mr. Light is asking agencies to share their ideas in progress with other shops, a request sure to spark debate on compensation and the value of ideas. "We're going to have idea-poaching and we're going to encourage it," said Mr. Light. "I know how difficult it's going to be."

To accommodate regional differences, particularly on obesity and health issues, the marketer will "collect" ideas in progress from agencies during the next two months and present the best ones with global potential at an April marketing summit. Regional marketing managers will have until May or June to choose the ideas that work best for them.

Executives from McDonald's agency referred questions to the marketer. But some advertising-industry executives argue that their ideas are their intellectual capital and that giving them away without financial reward is unorthodox at best and unfair at worst. One likened it to McDonald's sharing their best advances and ideas with Burger King or Wendy's.

"Intellectual property is owned by the client, not the agency," said Mr. Light. "It's work for hire."

Tom Collinger, associate professor of integrated marketing communications at Northwestern University, said such debate illustrates the evolution of marketer/agency relationships since the old days when agencies "had the confidence of the client and capabilities to take an idea and execute it."

"While [Mr. Light's] comment seems cold-hearted to the developers of big ideas, it's true that they long ago had given up the ability to get paid for the development of good ideas." Yet he sympathizes with shops. "What you have is the industry being paid for effort, not for quality and that doesn't make sense."

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