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  • Writer's pictureDavid Fiore


I recently had the opportunity to propose a marketing plan to a good friend who runs a general contracting business. He’s OK with my retelling our story.

This friend does something very similar to what I do: he creates things. Unique things that exist where nothing had before. Things that move people’s emotions, that people engage with for utility or for pleasure.

That’s what I do too. Exactly.

But there’s apparently a very big difference between us: I’m in advertising. And when I brought my friend the proposal, I found out how big that difference is.

With some help, I’d defined my friend’s target audience, analyzed that audience’s attitudes and behaviors, identified the most relevant and beneficial actions we’d want them to do, and drafted a strategy to reach and motivate them to do that action. I laid out how we’d track the effect of the campaign and offered to maintain and update that campaign based on those learnings.

I also went as far as to write and design some of the tonality of what a campaign may look and feel like, including some social posts, digital and print ads, a website and a video.

My friend was blown away.

Then he got mad.

He looked at the work I’d done and wanted to know how much I thought he was going to pay me for this proposal. He wasn’t talking about paying for the campaign, he was talking about paying me for the proposal meeting that had just concluded. How dare I assume that he was ready to pay for my services without getting a contract signed between us first!

If you’re in advertising, your head is spinning like mine was.

I said: “What? No! The work that went into this meeting is all no charge. I did this to show you how I think, to show you the type of work you’ll get from me.”

He said: “No charge for all that research, design, copy, and the videos?

Me: “No charge.”

Him: “Isn’t that what you get paid to do? Create a strategy, design and write things, make videos, stuff like that?”

Me: “Yeah.”

Him: “And you just gave it all to me for free?”

Me: “It’s how you get new business in advertising.”

Him: “That’s expected by your clients?”

Me: “It’s how it’s done.”

Him: “That’s absolutely insane. I wouldn’t draft a floorplan for a new room on your house to see if you liked it before you agreed to pay for that draft. That’s giving away my trade skills – skills I paid and trained to acquire, in which I am expert, skills that you need from me – that’s just giving them away completely free. Insane.”

This reminded me why we are friends.

Another video I never get tired of watching – makes me laugh and cry at the same time.

And for flavor, a theme song for the ad biz, just to rub it in.

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