Founder Post: Confessions of an economic (s)hitman

hmc-blogCase Study vs Con: How a former Central Bank Governor ripped off a T&T small business. 

For as long as I can remember, I have dreamed of forging a creative company, from scratch, from dirt and dust, from fire and rust. I have dreamed of building it up – a Caribbean agency that even with the slow drawl of its staff’s accents and its ‘irie’ approach to matters would literally ignite a creative renewal of Caribbean talent. This agency would up-end this sickening and tired model – instead of us reaching out to franchise some buzz brand or waiting for a big name, world-class ad agency to land on some prime real estate in Uptown and tell US how we should advertise, we could flip the script, export OUR ad model to the world and supply those agencies everywhere from Frankfurt to Philly, with our Caribbean approach to life and our brand of advertising.

And this year, while I have immersed Huckleberry in all sorts of odd activities including the last three years of social media (a space so filled with the rot of lazy opportunists and their Facebook ads) – I renewed my vow to see that dream come true.

As part of that renewed sense of raison d’être, we took a call from a former Central Bank Governor seeking the usual – a logo, some branding for his ‘blog’ and some social media guidance.

This was perfect.

Every few months where possible, we try to find a creative project that allows us to flex our crowd-sourced model a bit, allowing us to take on some new talent on a new project and see if they would work on a longer term basis, on a our Big Idea.

We agreed – that with the nature of his persona, we would only use T&T talent. We would hire emerging photographers and younger artists and artisans for all work, and they in turn, would have the opportunity to work with a well-known name. One email pitch later which he agreed to immediately, we contacted a local designer we never met before because we loved her new website and thought she would be great to pull it all together. We brought the client, the creative and ourselves together at Ambrosia Cafe, which by the way is perfection.

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We agreed, in lieu of a full brand/logo exercise and payment, that we would keep it simple as the client wanted it as soon as possible and would create a three month payment plan, during which we would offer (as a bonus) once-weekly artwork for his once-weekly content. He was gentle and seemed a bit oblivious to most of the discussion. We even switched seats at Ambrosia so he could marvel at the ‘magic’ of our newly hired designer’s workings on Illustrator. He was mesmerized. He paid half of the first month’s installment – cash.

We were looking for a case study.

He was looking for a con.

We delivered the logo after purchasing one aspect of it (legitimately paying for it) and using as we always insist on doing, fonts and pieces that we are allowed to or already have permissions for. Our first pieces of content artwork were pulled together and the first post published on a massively updated site he had already (but barely) established. We were ready to get to working on that next week’s post, which we also agreed to publish every Friday. He sent an email on a Monday morning around 8am, with a post, requesting artwork for it by 10am so he could post at 12. We played phone tag for a bit till we finally connected around 3pm in the evening (he was at Court, he noted and I at back to back meetings). Instead of paying for the photography or having us shoot it, he just wanted us to ‘grab one from Google’ and use it. This would be a photo of our a local company’s building by the way – so not the easiest photo to find, sans copyright issues, which we explained. He only decided on Sunday that he wanted that post up and he didn’t see fit to warn us either, despite the fact that we even added him to our online client area and sent an extensive email that Sunday too around 5pm about moving forward etc.

We tried to hustle together what we could after we spoke and we noted him that we would rush it for Tuesday as we would need to source or shoot the building first thing the next day.

At 8pm that very night however, we were dismissed. The reason? Our inability to deliver that rushed Monday post (outside of our agreement anyway) and general ‘dissatisfaction’ with the work presented.

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Two weeks have gone by and six phone calls, two iMessages, one invoice later, we have not been able to reach the former Central Bank Governor. He has studiously avoided any communication with us, not returned calls or responded to emails. He even went so far as to block my personal Twitter account from seeing his Twitter account which we also rebranded and rebuilt. Little did this (s)hitman know, we manage well over 15 other Twitter accounts and can still see our creative work being used and edited for his sole purpose of winning speaking engagements and being a thought-leader. He in fact is so dissatisfied with our work, that as an act of rebellion, he’s continuing to use the full branding, logo and ideology (and copy) we created! What a disruptive thinker he is!

We noted to him that we had not handed over copyright of our logo creation to him (which we would have at the end of the project (or at least on payment of our reduced, post-disappearance invoice) and since then it appears he has hired another creative company to edit these creative materials and also amend and use our logo in ways we did not prescribe.

So why did we not have a contract? We do have one, but due to the fact that we turned around our logo and artwork in a matter of days, faster than our legal could have reviewed the contract, it wasn’t handed over to him before the artwork files which he smartly played dumb about understanding. We have countless emails however detailing the work and outcomes and fees expected and acknowledgements of the agreement. Like I said, we adopted this as a fun project to showcase the power of bringing together Caribbean talent – we didn’t expect to be dealt a hand by a man who once was dealing with our economy! (that’s another thought entirely, but good luck T&T!)

So why publish this now?

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So that it is a warning to ANYONE in the creative space to be mindful that even the most ‘accomplished’ and ‘respected’ people may actually just be as common as a thief in the Port of Spain market. To remind people that some bandits do in fact drive BMW’s and lived in gated communities. To remind people to never be rushed, always sign off on agreements, always be clear in what expectations and outcomes of the project are and to always, always note upfront, that all work created is yours until you hand over your copyright as the creator (unless you have a work made for hire clause etc)

And if by chance you do happen upon this person, at a conference, or at their site, which is easy enough to find as it is ‘theirname.com’, please tell them that stealing from one person in the creative industry equates to stealing from all, because there is one of them but thousands of us.

As we continue our journey to crowdsource creativity, we will not be deterred by these incidents, we instead have a renewed sense of purpose and if you are reading this and are in the creative field, then please contact us if you can help make moves to crowdsource our IP rights, security and safety against these traitors, who defy our very togetherness as Caribbean people.

Sincerely,

Kieran
Founder
Huckleberry Media Company

PS: We highly recommend using Credit Chex -it’s annual cost can be a little high for small companies, but factor in setting aside $400 a month or so as a cost of business and take their annual plan.

Full Copyright Law here: http://rgd.legalaffairs.gov.tt/laws2/alphabetical_list/lawspdfs/82.80.pdf

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