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‘I’ve given up getting paid’: design agency accused of exploiting artists


It is a global technology platform that claims to “democratise creativity” by allowing up-and-coming artists to submit work to the world’s biggest brands.
But Talenthouse, which boasts clients including Netflix, Sony, Coca-Cola and the United Nations, has been accused of exploiting artists and failing to pay them, in some cases leaving them thousands of pounds out of pocket.
The company, based in London, shares briefs from its clients and invites artists to create work that matches the brand’s demands – from designing a poster for a Hollywood film to an illustration for a drink brand’s social media campaign.
If their submission is picked, the artist is paid a fee, and the potential career benefits are huge: their work could be used in marketing materials and seen by millions of people around the world.
Since 2009, Talenthouse claims its service has helped level the playing field for artists internationally. On its corporate page, it implores companies to partner with it because “purpose-driven brands do better”. “Up your integrity. Virtue signalling is not enough. Take action with Talenthouse today and democratise creativity,” it adds.
However, Talenthouse contributors say the company is failing to deliver on its promises. The Observer has spoken to 12 creatives including visual artists, a photographer and a scriptwriter, who say they have not been paid money they are owed by Talenthouse, after completing briefs for companies including DreamWorks, Nationwide and Snap.
The group includes creatives in the UK, US, Poland, India and the Philippines. The problems are believed to be more widespread, with others describing similar experiences on social media.
One artist, Sarah Sumeray, 37, from Crouch End, London, said she has been waiting six months to be paid for a Talenthouse project from March 2022, creating a poster for the animated DreamWorks film The Bad Guys. Sumeray spent three days creating a unique design, which she later learned had been selected by DreamWorks. According to Talenthouse’s terms, she should have been paid $2,000 (£1,600) within 90 days.
But the payment window came and went, and despite emails showing she repeatedly chased the company, she says she has still not been paid. “At this point I’ve given up on getting the money. But it’s so disrespectful to treat hardworking artists like this,” she said. “It was quite a big deal to be selected for something like that, and it’s quite a chunk of money. It’s just not fair.

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