Are Agency Pitches Broken?
Does a new initiative to make pitches a more positive experience mark a turning point in the way new business is competed for and won?
Pitch Positive is a UK initiative designed to result in smarter pitches, pitches that have been called for good reason, are well run and have a positive resolution.
Designed by ISBA and the IPA, its goal is to prevent poor agency experiences, notably in the PR and creative space, where some horror stories have emerged from agency bosses.
The aim is to make the process a more positive one for all concerned and similar work is also being developed by the ANA and 4A’s in the US.
We’ve always believed in the idea that a pitch should be a positive experience for everyone. That it should be exciting for the agencies to take part in, stress test key capabilities and result in a partnership that can last years. Everyone involved should get feedback on their performance in recognition of the effort they’ve put in.
There are, however, some structural issues in our market that make it more challenging to make the process easier and less intense.
For many agencies pitching is where you make your name. As a junior, it’s seen as a privilege to be invited to be part of the pitch team. Reputations are made in pitches, teams are created in pitches and loyalty is built in pitches. It’s an exciting, extreme sport and while it’s fun in your twenties it gets harder as you get older.
It’s also a way for agency bosses to earn fame, to get mentioned in earnings calls and coverage in the trade press. Pitches test your product and people. It can be very hard for an agency CEO to say no.
We have long been advocates of agencies being more discerning about what they challenge for and with the current talent squeeze that’s more essential than ever.
We think that their focus should be on existing clients and investing in relationships, over servicing key accounts and not giving clients an excuse to pitch. That will allow agencies to be far more discerning about what they do compete for. Less pitching will be better for everyone in the long term.
On the client side, marketers need to commit to the pitch and do it properly, to make sure that the pitch is the most productive and constructive that it can be, from both the brand and agency side.
Advertisers need to treat the agencies with as much respect as possible. It requires thought and consideration to find a strategic partner.
When we get to the end of an ID Comms pitch process, we find that many clients really acknowledge the scale of what they’ve just done. In media and advertising we get used to numbers ending in millions and forget how significant and strategic this contract is. Advertising can be the largest single investment of the year for some companies.
You don’t do shopping for an agency. Any pitch must be well considered to find an agency that can help drive brand growth.
Watch the ID Comms #MediaSnack episode here: