The Good Pitch

Seb is Marketing Week’s agency specialist.

The rules of engagement when pitching a piece of new business are changing but the pitching process has grown rigid compared to the rapid pace of marketing communications.

There’s a growing level of discord between marketers and agencies as the pitching process becomes longer and more expensive.

Research conducted by both the IPA and ISBA reveals that clients want very different relationships and services from agencies than they used to, yet in many cases they’re still defaulting to the old models, like agency-of-record relationships.

It’s always easy to keep doing what you’ve always done until you stop and ask why.

Here lies the conundrum for creative shops. And one the IPA looked to address at the swap shop.


The event saw marketers Ali Jones, brand director at Marks & Spencer, David Sinfield, marketing director at Majestic Wines, and Simon Tuckey, commercial director of British Basketball swap places with Chris Macdonald, CEO of McCann London and Steve Hatch, CEO of MEC to  explain how they would deal with pitch situations from the opposite perspective.

One of the themes on the night was a growing need for marketers to stop relying on procurement officers to make quantitative decisions and for the role to be more focused on having agencies competing against one another in the “right way”. 

The argument being that procurement officers aren’t marketers and so don’t understand the day-to-day workings of an advertising account. It helps, but isn’t as important as having a passion for marketing.

Given what I witnessed at the IPA event, it’s clear that beyond just showing their creative flair, agencies should focus on understanding a business at a grass rots level to gain better insight. It sounds obvious but all three marketers said they felt it was something agencies should be doing more of.

They cited instances of agencies working at a potential clients’ retail outlets or visiting its stores as notable ways an agency went the extra mile to build insight and while they may not have gone on to win the pitch, the agency was always top of mind during the process.

Pitches stretch agencies. They can be time consuming, expensive and exhausting. They should offer marketers a snapshot of an agency at its creative best but all too often they present an unrealistic view of what’s really going to happen if the agency gets hired.

Rapidly advancing technologies have created even more ways for agencies to frame creative that should help build brands. Consequently it’s getting harder to separate marketing and technology. This shouldn’t deter marketers though, and they should focus on getting a realistic sense of what it will be like working with an agency on a day-to-day basis.

Brands and agencies need to start addressing these realities or bad decisions and disillusionment will follow.

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