This is a follow-up to my recent post about The challenge of selling brainspace, and the general unwillingness for people to pay for the intangibles of ideas, insights, designs, planning and perspective.

Advertising agencies have long been familiar with responding to pitches that require creative up front. This is where you do free work for the client, often working off minimal information, just so as to enable them to decide whether their want to work with you or not.

It can get rather disheartening to read the plethora of discussions on the subject of free pitches on the web. As one person put it (and I cannot find that link at the moment so am paraphrasing from memory here): doing free pitches is like expecting several doctors to give you free consultations and medication, just so you can decide which doctor you really want to see, if at all. (The same practice is evident in cities asking architects to enter designs for large public works before choosing to commission one.)

This may well be traditional, but it does not make much sense. And more importantly, it logically cannot benefit clients nor suppliers. Is this disrespectful way of sourcing suppliers the reason for cost blowouts and other undesirable project outcomes? How many great potential breakthrough ideas are lost to clients simply because those suppliers choose not to participate in this process?

What would you do if you were asked to do work for free, commit to a firm quote, within a very short timeframe, with minimal information, and minimal big picture understanding?

It is a chicken and egg situation borne out of the unwillingness for many businesses to truly value ideas and design.