Should you recycle creative from one client to another?

I got this question from a designer recently, and it’s generating a lot of comments on the CFC LinkedIn Group. What do you think this designer should do?

Here’s the question:

We recently had a company contract us to create an ad campaign for them. About a month into the project, one of their competitors hired us to do a campaign for them also.

We were on the final proofs of the first companies ad campaign when they decided they hated the direction and scraped the campaign. It was a very brilliant campaign that we know would work and draw a lot of interest. As per our contract since we were in the final proof stages we did a change in the scope of work contract and charged them for the additional time for us to do a very generic looking campaign (per their request) that we know won't work with artwork that was provided by that company. No matter what we said to them they just didn't get it, however they loved the generic campaign and said why couldn't you create this the first time?

Since they settled on the generic campaign as their final deliverable, our contract clearly states that any preliminary sketches remained property of "Acme Graphics" and proofs that aren't considered final deliverables remains the property of "Acme Graphics." Is it ok to use the artwork that was scraped on the first project for their competitor?

We have never encountered a situation like this and this is the ethical "grey" area, please help…"

6 thoughts on “Should you recycle creative from one client to another?

  1. Prescott Perez-Fox

    It’s often not relevant or appropriate, but if the two clients are in similar sectors, I’d say go for it. But it might be a good idea to call the lawyers first. If the first group gets huffy to see their rejected work in the marketplace, you better have a very clean answer prepared.
    I always say castaways and concepts for creative purposes. Often _those_, and not the final deliverable, are what ends up in my portfolio.

  2. Lynne Venart

    In addition to legality, I’d also consider if the first client is one you want to keep around. Using designs originally created for them for one of their competitors may put a bad taste in their mouth, regardless of if they rejected the design initially. Also, the new client may not like that their competition has already seen their new campaign.

  3. Lynne Venart

    Perhaps being upfront with both clients about the situation would help eliminate any issues. It’s possible client 1 will say “We don’t care if someone else uses it! We hate it anyway!” and client 2 will like the idea so much that they don’t care if the client 1 has seen it already.

  4. Dina Dembicki

    @Lynne: yes, but will client 2 want to pay again for what client 1 already paid for? And will client 1 want a refund if client 2 is paying? Huge Ugh potential.