IPA proposes protection

The industry body believes agencies should retain ownership of creative ideas.

The IPA is urging Britain's agencies to take their cue from Hollywood's movie industry and to "license" their best creative ideas to clients in return for a slice of the profits.

This week, the IPA published new guidelines, agreed with other industry bodies, which aim to allow agencies to protect their intellectual property rights better.

It is seeking to put an end to a practice that predates the collapse of the commission system, under which agencies surrendered their ownership rights for a nominal fee in the expectation of making money on the processing and delivery of creative work.

Now the trade body wants member shops to consider moving towards licensing as a means of strengthening their balance sheets.

The new recommended terms for agency and client contracts are the culmination of discussions between the IPA, ISBA, the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply and the Marketing Communications Consultants Association.

IPA executives hope the new terms could pave the way for a system that would mirror the one that operates in the film business, which allows authors to retain the rights to an idea and to license its use to studios in exchange for a financial stake in the project.

The guidelines cite Bartle Bogle Hegarty as a particularly good example of an agency that has successfully exploited its intellectual property rights on clients including Woolworths.

Hamish Pringle, the IPA's director-general, commented: "If advertising agencies retained their rights for major new campaigns and licensed their creative ideas to clients, their fortunes could be transformed, because they would have assets with a recurring value."

Clients have generally been reluctant to agree to using creative ideas under licence, partly because they have been used to paying nothing for them but also because they are fearful of losing full control over their brands.

The IPA believes such misgivings could be overcome if agencies accepted a reduced fee for an outstanding creative idea in return for being part of a joint venture with a client to market a product.