Agency threatens legal action against Calgary

September 06, 2012  |  Tracy Johnson  |  Comments

The latest installment of “You stole that from our RFP”

A Calgary advertising agency is considering suing the City of Calgary’s economic development arm over what it calls an RFP process gone wrong. Mosaic Studios argues that a pitch it made to Calgary Economic Development (CED) was substantially used in a business development campaign, despite the fact that Mosaic did not win the contract.

The dispute centres on Calgary’s new branding and business development campaign. In 2010, CED put out a request for proposal for a campaign that would encourage companies outside of Calgary to move to the city. Mosaic, working in partnership with Toronto agency Cundari, submitted a bid tagged “There’s a New Energy in Calgary, Be Part of It.”

The contract was awarded to another firm, Calgary’s Sasges and the campaign was launched in 2011 with the tagline “Calgary: Be Part of the Energy.”

Melodie Creegan, president of Mosaic and board member of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, says she was disappointed when her firm lost the bid, but the real surprise came a few months later when CED presented the winning campaign to the Chamber. “That was definitely shocking to see our idea re-skinned and launched. The creative looked different, but the heart of the message was the same.”

CED president Bruce Graham insists that his organization did not share Mosaic’s work with anyone. “We have a process that is used for evaluating all our RFPs, which is based on a number of criteria including team competency, project methodology, community engagement, ability to execute and project fees. We also have a strict rule of not disclosing submitted information from one vendor to any other vendor responding to an RFP.”

One of the complicating factors in the dispute is that Mosaic’s partnering firm, Cundari, previously won a contract with CED to develop a new brand for the city. That particular branding effort stalled, but the research around it was made available by the City to Sasges after it won the contract in the 2010 RFP. Graham says Mosaic was not alone in playing with the word Energy in its pitch. “I would point out that the concept of using the term ‘Energy’ in relation to Calgary was developed long before this RFP, by Cundari, doing the City Brand project for us during 2007 and 2008.”

But Aldo Cundari, CEO of his eponymous agency, refutes Graham using Cundari’s previous work as an excuse. “The similarities are too obvious to not be plagiarized,” he says. “The brief was not specific enough to have steered competing agencies in similar directions. There was no call to include energy sector mention, or any specific tone at all. I’ve seen campaigns that are similar because the brief was tight. When you write a tight brief, you can get campaigns that are pretty similar. In this case, there was no brief. It was basically ‘How would you market the city of Calgary?’ That wouldn’t have guided agencies down the same path.”

Creegan agrees and is somewhat reluctantly considering legal action. “The way I like to work is to resolve issues amicably, but I believe firmly that this was our idea. The process was somewhat flawed here. Let’s make it right.”

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