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SMU to press on with controversial pitch charge

SMUA Singapore university has said it will persist with a controversial charge for agencies to participate in its pitches despite outrage from the advertising community.

Singapore Management University’s S$100 administration charge for a creative, digital and media pitch called in July prompted some agencies to baulk at having to effectively pay to pitch, with many taking to social media to air their frustration.

One agency boss remarked: “100 bucks is dirt cheap but it is a matter of principle. You are asking an agency to pay to contribute free work.” Others said the charge was a warning sign of an unreasonable client, and to stay away.

But SMU has said it would not revoke the charge after reviewing its policy in light of the response from agencies.

Mumbrella first asked SMU about a potential revision to its policy on 2 August. The university finally responded with the following statement yesterday:

For the time being, the $100 administrative fee, which applies to all Tenders called by SMU regardless of project scope or value, will continue to be part of the University’s procurement policy. The University is taking on board the recent feedback as it continually reviews its policies. Should there be any changes to its policies, we will announce the update accordingly.

SMU has used local agency Wild Advertising & Marketing for creative and Zenith for media.

The pay-to-pitch fracas prompted a similar response from Singapore’s creative community as a tender from a secondary school in February, when a designer took to social media to protest against a brief from the school that demanded “unlimited changes” at no extra cost. The response from Singapore’s ad agency industry body the 4As was to “be brave and ignore it”.

News of SMU’s decision emerges a few weeks after a similar reaction from agencies to university pitching procedures in Hong Kong. Many now give preferential treatment to pitching agencies depending on the size of the discount they are prepared to give on creative services.

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