No pain no gain: Chacko says creators must be willing to share in the pain of any unsuccessful campaign.

Professionals argue their cases in IAA debate series

WHAT is an idea worth? Are creators being justly rewarded for creativity to thrive? Or are brand owners and those who commission work not adequately rewarding idea generators?

Then again, creativity cannot thrive without the financial power of those who back those ideas. Has the time arrived for idea generators to profit from those same ideas that are very successful? How will idea generators compensate clients on ideas that defy the promised success?

These were some of the thought-provoking arguments brought up at the International Advertising Association (IAA) Ignite Debate Series, presented in partnership with Jaffer & Menon (advocates & solicitors) held in Kuala Lumpur last week.

To extract views and points of argument from diverse perspec­tives, the debate panel was represented by Tony Savarimuthu (Dentsu LHS CEO,), Johan Ishak (Media Prima Television Networks CEO), and Prashant Kumar (Entropia founder and senior partner) on the opposing side; while John Chacko (IAA-Malaysia president), Janet Toh (Shearn Delamore & Co partner), and Vasanthi Rasathurai (Vin Law Co partner) represented the affirmative team.

Harmandar Singh (Marketing Magazine founder and CEO) moderated the session.

The debate reached deep into the minds of the audience as salient points were raised.

Kicking off the affirmative’s opening salvo, Chacko said: “If creative agencies wish to lobby to revisit the client-agency contract on the issue of compensation, remember, it works both ways.

“For instance, for agencies to own the IP related to their creative work, in order to enjoy residual income in whichever way, then very likely, the fee paid by the client is going to be very much lower. If creators wish to share in the gain, then, should the creative campaign prove unsuccessful, they must be willing to share in the pain.

Dentsu LHS CEO Tony Savarimuthu

Savarimuthu rebutted. “Creative industries cannot operate at bargain basement standards. So what is the worth of an idea and who in the organisational chain decides its worth and value? he asked.

“There is a lot more money spent on the implementation of an idea than the nurturing, development and crafting of the idea. Excellent ideas and those who produce them get devalued in the process chain. Without a well-crafted message with a great creative idea, the amount spent on implementation has little sense,” he noted.


Back to the affirmative, Toh pointed out that investment drives creativity and clients create opportunities for creativity. “Success for the client equals success for the creative agency. IP rights are more important to the client than to the agency. Success of an advertisement is not only in the ownership of IP, it is also about successful exploitation”, she quipped.

In his motion, Johan remarked: “Creativity is the raw fuel of innovation. Like any raw fuel, it needs to be burnt for energy to burst. Creativity needs to be digested into manifestation that makes economic transactions possible. So, we will need the left part of the brain to work with the right. The former are business people and the latter, artists.”

Vasanthi took her stand and as a matter of fact said, “Under the Malaysian Copyright Act 1987, in terms of ownership, work made in the course of employment is deemed transferred to the employer, or work commissioned is deemed transferred to the client, unless there is an agreement to the contrary.”

Prashant concluded for the opposition and noted: “Creativity is the alchemy that turns mundane objects into brand assets worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Visionary entrepreneurs understand the power of dreams. And use creativity to bridge their products with the peoples’ deepest desires. Like all good things in life, good creativity needs to be adequately paid for.”

Contracts aside, this conundrum on the worth of an idea will go on just as it has been for hundreds of years.

After being entertained by the intense exchange of viewpoints, the audience voted the affirmative team as the one that had put forward a more structured and point-laden argument.

In addition to Jaffar & Menon being the presenting partner, the event also saw Travee Travels, Marketing Magazine, JDC BrandTruth and Visual Retale as sponsors, while Dentsu Aegis Network Malaysia lent support as IAA’s corporate member.

IAA-Malaysia’s purpose for being is to connect, inform and represent the marketing communications community, with primary focus on knowledge and learning and networking.

IAA, headquartered in New York, was established in 1938 and now has a presence in over 76 countries.