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Ask The Doctor

Dear Sir,

A colleague of mine has stolen my script for a TVC. We used to work together. Then he quit and moved to another agency. Some months later a script I had written for a client, but didn’t get approved, surfaced as a commercial for another client. I was livid. I called him up and we met. He just laughed it off. Can I sue him?

Arjun S.

Dear Arjun,

Yours is a problem that has plagued the advertising business ever since it started. And frankly, there is nothing much that can be done about it. Unfortunately, unlike with film scripts and TV scripts, advertising scripts cannot be registered, primarily because of client confidentiality. As such stealing ideas and stealing of scripts and campaigns have been rampant in the advertising business, not just in India but everywhere in the world. So, all you can do is perhaps go out with a few friends, have a few drinks and bi**h about the guy who stole the script. Cuss, cry, curse and get it out of your system. Get on with life. The hurt will remain but nothing realistically can be done.

As far as suing the guy is concerned, a lawyer will tell you it’s doable. But there are lots of issues involved. Was the script yours or was it the property of your employer since you are paid a salary for the work you create for clients? Also, if you were to go legal, the name of your agency and the client for whom this work was initially conceived will also get dragged into the suit. I don’t think any of them would want to get involved. So, avoid it.

In the future, if you really have a worthwhile script which is unencumbered by client issues, you can get it registered with the Film Writers Association ( However, scripts for short TVCs may not be allowed for registration. You will need to check.

Dear Mr. Goyal,

I have been moved within my agency to a strategic planning job. To be fair, I had been requesting that move for many months. When a vacancy arose, I was assigned to the job. While the job is interesting, most of the times I am only doing theoretical stuff or pouring through mountains of research data. I was in client servicing earlier and enjoyed the direct interaction on brands with both the client and creative. Now, that has largely gone missing. Also, I find that most of the presentations we make are repetitive. The same decks are shuffled around. Having asked for this transfer internally, I now feel foolish if I were to ask to go back to client servicing. I don’t want to leave my agency as I have been here for seven years and am very comfortable in the overall work environment. Please advise.


Dear D. B.,

Jobs in strategic planning are fairly coveted within the agency business. You must be good to be assigned to that team. Strategic planning will inherently mean a lot of research work, data crunching and consumer insights. It is actually a very enriching job as it exposes you to more perspectives, understandings and learnings across categories and products. You should consider yourself blessed.

What you make of such a job is entirely up to you. I had a young colleague who decided to specialize in telecom as a domain. She moved agencies but remained focused on telecom brands in strategic planning. In a few years, she had mastered the subject and clients coveted her deep understanding of the category. She eventually moved to a very high paying job in a global consultancy firm and has recently become a senior analyst with a very large PE firm.

Another not-so-young lady colleague of mine, many years ago, started to focus on FMCG. She was very good at what she did. She would spend days visiting groceries and modern formats. She was deeply involved with all the research and consumer insights. In fact, she started a few consumer panels of her own within the agency. She was finally picked by the agency’s global team on one of the world’s best known FMCG clients. She spent a few years abroad. When she came back that global client asked for her to be seconded to their India office in a very senior role.

If I were you, I would resist the temptation to go back to client servicing. Give this job enough time. Find better ways to interact with the clients and creatives. Spend time in the market. Go personally for research projects. Track specific categories. Try and specialize in at least one of them. Strategic planning can be a real fun job.

Dear Doctor,

Goa Fest will be coming up soon. My agency has not been participating in the festival. A lot of my good work which could have won awards will not even be entered. Can I switch jobs and enter the work of my previous assignment from the new agency for the awards?

John P.

Dear John,

The answer is NO.

You have to be in an agency, produce published work in that agency, then apply for awards from that agency. Or go solo. Any other shortcuts or efforts to beat the system will get discovered and be disqualified.

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