Do agency pitch teams need to be more gender balanced?

A couple of months ago I mentioned that I was going out to pitch for a new agency to join my creative roster. I received a few negative comments from Marketing Week readers at the time: that it was wrong of me to initially meet with 10 agencies, even though as I’d pointed out, these were ‘fireside chats’ – with five incumbent agencies and five ‘new’ agencies – as it was my intention to reduce the list to a two-agency roster (one I had pre-selected) from these 10. It seemed only fair to give all the incumbents a crack of the whip and I was also keen to see some fresh thinking – hence the larger number of chemistry meetings than I would normally hold in such a situation.

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From those 10 discussions, we asked three agencies to respond with a full-blown pitch and last week those agencies presented back to us. I am very pleased to say that I have convinced the Procurement Police to back the businesses’ preferred choice.

There are two things to note. First, we have selected a ‘new agency’ –  one we have not worked with before and which has virtually no sector experience of the industry in which my brand operates. Creatively, however, they were streets ahead of the two incumbents. Does this demonstrate the value of regularly reappraising one’s agency roster to avoid staleness?

Second, across the three agencies, 13 presenters were put forward and just one was a woman. I remember a time when a good few chief marketing officers were lecherous older men, and agencies put out the prettiest people they could find in Soho to appease them. Fortunately those days are gone and we have all grown up, and more and more CMOs are female. However, I do find it disturbing that based on my recent pitch experience, agencies are not representative of our market (or my own marketing department). 

At a time when the Prime Minister is facing attack for his lack of female frontbenchers, does we need a period of ‘positive discrimination’ in the agency world to redress this imbalance?

I’d welcome your opinions.

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