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Claims advice for copywriters

01/10/2014

We had a wonderful time at this year's Professional Copywriter's Network Conference. 

In between munching pastries and listening to the fascinating speakers, we dealt with some proper head-scratchers from inquisitive copywriters.

Why do I need insurance? How much is it? What's with the bee?

And so on.

But more often than not we found ourselves talking about claims. In general terms, mostly, but we also talked a lot about claims made against copywriters.

That's when the thoughtful nodding started. Someone else's misfortune can be sobering – especially if that someone does the same thing for a living as you.

With that in mind, we thought it might be useful to share these stories.

A brief mistake 

A large supermarket chain contracted a small agency to write, design, and produce a million scratchcards as part of a promotional campaign. Simple enough.

But it didn't go quite as planned. The brief was misread, and the wrong spec went to the print company producing the scratchcards.

As a result, that little silver foil bit you're supposed to scratch off started to peel away before the cards hit the shops. What's worse, no one spotted the problem until 180,000 cards had been printed.

That's when the agency's policy stepped up. Before the client was even aware of the mix-up, the insurer paid to reprint the dodgy scratchcards. The rationale being that the agency was clearly at fault, and paying for a reprint prevented a more costly claim in the future

That was important because it preserved the agency's relationship with the supermarket – a very important client it didn't want to lose.

Total bill: £80,000 rectification costs.

IP problems 

A well-known retailer contracted a copywriter to write a few landing pages and some product descriptions for their website. It was a nice week's work, ending in a satisfied customer and a promptly paid invoice.

A few months later, though, the copywriter got an anxious call from the client. One of the client's competitors had accused it of copying their product descriptions word-for-word, and was threatening to sue.

Naturally, the client wasn't happy and wanted the copywriter to do something about it. They didn't want to pay for someone else's mistakes, after all.

The copywriter was adamant he hadn't done anything wrong, but there was a case to answer – the words were remarkably similar. Still, he didn't want to be liable and was anxious about tarnishing his good name. Something had to be done, and that something was likely to involve expensive legal help.

Thankfully, the copywriter's professional indemnity insurance covered his defence costs.

The retailer agreed to change some of the copy. The copywriter's insurer paid for both party's legal costs, and a small amount of damages. The legal costs were high because both retailers used expensive City law firms.

Total bill: £400,000 legal costs.

File fail 

A national bank needed 1.5 million snazzy recruitment leaflets for its branches. A copywriting agency was brought in to help write them.

The brief was agreed, the mailers were created, and the bank signed off the final version of the copy. The file went to the printers.

A second, casual check by the bank found a compliance issue in the copy. The agency amended it, the bank reapproved it, and the updated version went off again.

Except it didn't. There was a comms mix-up at the agency and it accidently sent the original, incorrect file again.

Fortunately, the bank noticed it in a mid print-run check – but not until 250,000 leaflets had rolled off the presses.

The bank asked the agency to fix it (as its contract was with them, not the printer).

The agency's insurance covered the reprint cost. Not only that, but its insurer used its considerable powers of economic leverage to negotiate a lower reprint rate.

So even though the bank signed everything off, the agency had made a mistake and the bank expected it to make good.

Total bill: £6,500 reprint costs.

Time's ticking 

A charity got an experienced copywriter to help increase its seasonal donations. A direct mail campaign was planned, tied in to a time-critical schedule.

A technical hitch meant the copywriter was half a day late getting the copy to the client. He apologised, but the charity was pleased with the work and they didn't make a fuss.

Fast forward to the end of the campaign, though, and there was a complaint. That half-day’s delay meant a missed slot at the printers – which in turn meant the distributors were two days late starting. As a result, some of the mailers didn't go when planned.

The charity believed the delay was the reason they got fewer than expected donations. They also reckoned the delay was, ultimately, the copywriter's fault and claimed £200,000 compensation for the shortfall.

Now, it was difficult for the charity to prove the lack of donations were solely down to the copywriter's late work. And indeed, the copywriter's insurer's legal team successfully argued it out. But that didn't stop a finger pointing in his direction in the first place.

But that's the thing about professional indemnity: you're covered even when you're not at fault. 

Total bill: £12,750 legal costs.

A bold claim

As you can see, professional indemnity insurance isn't just a ticked box or a blank cheque. Sometimes, it's just nice to know you have someone on your side, fighting your corner.

An experienced insurer or broker will know when it's worth negotiating a deal, and when it's time to back off and pay up. Either way, you can't really go wrong.

For more info and a quote, go here or call us on 0345 222 5391.

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