The media and ad industries keep the pitch debate alive

When it comes to pitching, the one point that the advertising and media industries agree on is the importance of debating the issue. There could be a better way of doing things, they say, and there are certainly aspects of the process that could be improved. But when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of pitching itself, the two sides take very different approaches.

This was particularly evident at last week’s Let’s Take the Bitching out of Pitching debate, which was organised by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising.

The discussion touched on subjects including whether a pitch is always necessary and whether incumbents should be allowed to repitch when the review is not statutory. But it eventually descended into a familiar discussion about creativity and chemistry.

The issues around pitching are completely different for the media industry, says Stuart Pocock, founder of The Observatory, who was on the panel. He explained: “People are not as important, as the numbers speak for themselves. Clients can have a commodity attitude towards media and there is a collective view that it is about screwing the price lower. It can be the rough end of the deal.” 

Think outside the box
Few in media would dispute that such views are rife about their place in the pecking order. Jed Glanville, chief executive of WPP-owned Mindshare, who represented the media industry on the panel, believes that all interested parties need to look beyond their traditional roles.

He says: “In advertising agencies, there is this dream of the one big idea, the silver bullet solution. We shouldn’t give up trying to find it, but rarely is it the case that it happens. For a vast majority of advertisers, the answer is not as simple as that. It is now about a combination of ideas that when brought together will get their message across and then repeatedly crack the problem. If that is the reality, then this discussion needs to be more broad-based.” 

OMD chief executive Steve Williams believes that media pitches are “improving”, thanks to increasingly savvy procurement departments. He adds that clients are recognising that the world is changing and agencies are changing with it.

“Media agencies are well placed to take advantage of the changes in how we connect with consumers,” adds Williams. “How we do that is the trickiest challenge as it is not what we say, but who we are talking to and where they are congregating.” 

Put planning at the core
Media pitches can be just as creative as those in advertising, according to Richard Morris, regional director for DDB Europe and chairman of the IPA New Business Group. “There is a grey area about who generates creative ideas,” he says. “We are all striving to develop non-media-specific ideas.” 

Morris adds that the question of which model is better for providing creative media and planning remains “a matter for healthy debate”, but that it is “eminently possible” that agencies across several disciplines will compete for planning briefs.

Pocock agrees that planning has changed and that this area can be a key differentiator for media agencies: “It is really important to invest intellectually in a business. It is back to the argument of where planning should lie.” 

He points to Bartle Bogle Hegarty’s decision to bring in Kevin Brown as head of engagement planning, in late 2005, as a sign that some advertising agencies are already taking the lead.

For this reason, Pocock says, no individual discipline will be “master of the universe”. But he adds that media agencies will need to invest in talent to ensure that their strengths lie in planning and strategy development.

“It would leave media agencies with only the buying,” he adds. “It wouldn’t be good for them to move back that way, so now they can only focus on developing their planning capabilities.” 

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