Pepsi’s new logo reignites debate about agencies not getting credit for creative work

Agency executives point to a larger issue

Katie Keating, founding partner and co-chief creative officer of independent creative agency Fancy, said she often runs into this issue of clients not giving her teams credit for their work.

“We’ve never been given a reason for not being able to talk about the work,” Keating said. “Only ‘it’s our policy.’ As a very small agency, without the structure and funds to do unpaid creative pitches, we depend on our previous work to show that we’re good at what we do. When we’re prevented from doing that, we’re prevented from growing our business.”

“It’s a big problem for agencies trying to recruit new clients,” said Owen Williams, founder and managing partner of talent firm Outside Lines (formerly Unknown Partners), and former exec for agencies including TBWAMedia Arts Lab and Mother New York. “In our industry, CMOs and founders look and say, ‘That’s cool I want that thing’ and then they go to the people who made those things. If these small design shops can’t publicize their work, who’s going to know they’re doing that work?”

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An executive of a different design firm that also had a small part in the design of the new Pepsi logo, but spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to jeopardize their relationship with the client, said it took their firm a few years to grow business because they weren’t authorized to share most of the work they did.

The executive said they work with clients including Apple, which is notorious for not allowing external partners to publicize their work.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

Junior designers are the most disappointed about not being credited for their work, the executive said, because it’s critical to them being able to build their portfolios, grow their careers and get promotions.

“Younger artists see it as frustrating as they’re trying to build their portfolios,” the executive said. “If you can’t share that work, you think ‘was it all for nothing?’ It can be stifling for their careers.”

The executive said they personally don’t get upset by it anymore because it’s par for the course. The reason behind it, the executive said, is usually pretty simple: “They want to take the credit themselves.”