Originally Published on LinkedIn, February 13, 2017


 My wife and I frequently comment on the similarities in television scripts. They ride waves of popular plot lines and sometimes borrow from real news – “ripped from the headlines” as the Law & Order franchises used to frequently boast.

Time shifting massively, as we do, sometimes we see related programs months after they aired and compress the time between which different shows were broadcast. We wonder out loud about the possibly lazy writers who must work on both.

One recent example is the device shared by NCIS and NCIS: New Orleans – of an agent slipping back ‘undercover’ when an old target pops up out of context.

And of course, it seems ‘amnesia’ as a plot device never goes out of style.

If you’re not an avid viewer but once were, you may recall plot trends – like hypnosis, or rolling casinos built inside of tractor trailers – popular in the mid to late 70s. I wonder if the writers of one show swore at their TVs when competing programming beat them to the airwaves. Nobody likes getting scooped, or worse – having their ideas stolen outright.

A colleague in the small-business consulting field recently put a ‘quick’ marketing proposal together for a prospective client. Feeling confident about landing the contract, she went into a little more detail than she normally would.

Too eager to impress, perhaps, she really laid out the plan. A rookie move, we later agreed..

When we talked about the pitch, she said “I’m sure the job is mine. I had some really inspired ideas for their campaign.”

She shared several of them with me. They were good. They were engaging. I was sold.

You already know the rest of the story.

This consultant is a friend of mine, and while she didn’t land the contract, she kept tabs on the prospect as part of her network and for possible future opportunities.

In the months since submitting her plan, however, she’s watched some her ideas see the light of day. We’re talking about specific stuff. Things that were dramatically different from how the business was being marketed and shamefully similar to the suggestions harvested, no doubt, from her pitch.

Now, I’m not saying that 100 monkeys sitting at 100 typewriters couldn’t eventually come up with Shakespeare but there are original ideas out there and when she brought these to my attention I agreed with her.


By New York Zoological Society – Picture on Early Office Museum, Public Domain

She’d been ripped off by an unethical leadership.

We’ve come to suspect the search process was entirely bogus to begin with. They were simply fishing for fresh ideas.

“They got your work for free,” I said. “You got fleeced,” went unsaid. No point.

Certainly it’s sometimes necessary to ‘show your stuff.’ A little razzle-dazzle can lead to opportunities big and small, but knowing where to draw the line is critical.

My friend’s misstep was getting specific.

Instead of merely suggesting the involvement of other local businesses, she identified the types of local business – even by name in several instances. I doubt the mistake will be repeated any time soon.

Getting ripped off under any circumstances is bad but somehow less insulting than being exploited with exposure – summed up with this fantastic meme making the rounds elsewhere.


 I attempted to learn original source of this graphic, for attribution, but ended up down the rabbit hole.

My search did lead to this story about Actor Wil Wheaton who helped bring the intellectual property issue mainstream after the Huffington Post asked to publish his personal transformation article in exchange for exposure, but no pay.

He declined, seeing no benefit in their offer.

 in·tel·lec·tu·al prop·er·ty

noun: intellectual property; noun: intellectualproperty

“a work or invention that is the result of creativity, such as a manuscript or a design, to which one has rights and for which one may apply for a patent, copyright, trademark, etc”


One need only consider the past year of plagiarism in the political realm to recognize the lack of regard some hold for intellectual property.

At the end of the day, however, your ideas do have value. They’re your creations, your babies, your property.

Whether you patent them, or print them yourself, once conceived you need to protect and monetize to fruits of your labor.

It’s not unheard of to invest an hour or two toward landing a client or job in the form of a well-conceived proposal. It’s done all the time in advertising. But the material you submit should look more like a broad brush painting, than a fine line drawing.

If you’re giving too many details away on spec, you may end up like my colleague, working for free.

Unlike a completed spec house, which a builder gets to sell, your overly detailed proposals might not get you hired, but instead leave you out in the cold.

Now briefly, back to the tube. Before finishing this article, another example presented itself via another episode of NCIS: New Orleans – which I often watch for its cardio-workout supporting pacing.

This particular episode so owed its major plot device to 1974’s “The Sting” that for me it failed as predictable cliché. Understandably, I suppose, as half the cast and much of the audience may be unfamiliar with the movie.  Clearly, the writers were not. Only once does Scott Bakula’s character even say the word “sting.”

Considering the significance of the source, I was sort of offended by the theft. “The Sting” is kind of a brilliantly crafted film. There are reasons it won seven Oscars– including Best Picture (and Best Original Screenplay)

Personally, I feel great ideas shouldn’t be stolen.

What are your thoughts? I welcome your comments on this article.


I operate the Ment Media Group, and also write about a range of issues affecting business, the working life and the pursuit of an ethical human experience.

You can also subscribe to the Jonathan Ment Photography blog, follow on Twitter and find me on Facebook.

One thought on “RIPPED OFF!

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