I recently wrote a post, Caveat Emptor – hire copywriter with caution, warning that there is a tendency among some copywriters to exaggerate their experience. This led to a discussion on LinkedIn where several experienced practitioners shared stories of how their work had popped up in the portfolios of people passing it off as their own.
I’ve never been aware of anyone liking my work so much that they decided to “curate” it (is that the current word?). But that all changed yesterday.
At the Business Showcase exhibition in Bristol’s Colston Hall I met a copywriter who had taken a stand. We got chatting and they asked what clients I worked on. I mentioned Red Carnation Hotels, who I have been writing for over about the last six years. They then replied, “Oh, we’ve worked for Red Carnation too…”
Despite the fact I write for Red Carnation every week I wasn’t that surprised, as I know they do use other writers. However, out the corner of my eye I saw that there was a laptop on the stand. The pages were on a loop and I saw a Red Carnations Hotels web page pop up. As I spend part of every day on one or more of their sites (they have about sixteen in all), and regularly update those pages, the recognition was instant.
Leaning forward I looked at the page more closely. It was a current page, and one that I had worked on. I then turned back to the owner of the laptop and asked when they had worked for Red Carnation. The reply was vague, along the lines of “my husband did some work for them a while back”.
Stretching the truth – how far is too far?
I then moved on. But driving home I experienced a feeling of unease. I realised it was delayed shock at seeing my work being displayed on someone else’s stand. Getting home I checked their website. There was no mention of Red Carnation Hotels, and no examples of work done for that client.
I don’t doubt that they did some work for Red Carnation in the past. But why not show it? I guess it just didn’t look as good as the web page they picked instead – and they needed something nice and visual for their stand.
I’ve got some pretty good names on my CV – clients I worked on at Saatchi & Saatchi and Young & Rubicam. I did a couple of radio commercials with Dame Judy Dench on voice-over for Heinz Spaghetti, but that doesn’t mean I can pass off a few of their TV commercials as my own work. I did a poster campaign for British Gas about 20 years ago but that doesn’t mean I can lay claim their current stuff.
Food for thought
What should I do about this? I decided to do nothing. Apart from write this post highlighting the issue.
What should you do about it? If you are a copywriter consult your conscience. And if you ever hire a copywriter be sure to go through their examples of work carefully then interrogate them closely.
Maybe I’m being picky, but I’ve spent 30 years working hard to get good at what I do. It pisses me off to see people taking shortcuts by claiming my work as their own.
Picture credit superk8 https://www.flickr.com/photos/superk8/