‘More agile’ pitch process aims to halve the time taken to match brands with agencies

Consultancy Oystercatchers has rolled out its Modern Marketing Pitch, stripping back time-consuming elements of the traditional pitching process.

Modern Marketing PitchA new pitching process has been launched that is claimed to help brands find agencies better suited to meeting business objectives in half the time.

Oystercatchers, which is owned by Marketing Week publisher Centaur Media, today (1 March) unveiled its ‘Modern Marketing Pitch’, which aims cut the length of time it takes for brands to find an agency from about three months to six to seven weeks.

Chief among the changes are the ditching of ‘request for information’ documents (RFIs) unless insisted upon and a new approach to briefing. So-called ‘chemistry meetings’ have also been taken out of the process.

The process will begin with brands setting out their business objectives – or ‘ambition’ – followed by an invitation to selected agencies to answer three questions in writing or on film on how they can help achieve them.

Then a shortlist of agencies will be invited to take part first in “collaborative and immersive” workshops to determine working practices. ‘Test and learn iterations’ will mirror actual working processes between client and agency ahead of a final decision and “transparent” procurement process.

It is hoped that the “simpler” process will eliminate the need for agencies to waste time and money completing lengthy RFIs and producing creative early in the process that will never be used. For brands, Oystercatchers claims the new approach is more agile, with analysis of how to meet business objectives at the beginning of the process.

For us, business is moving fast and the traditional pitch process wasn’t agile enough.

Ellie Norman, Formula One

Introduction of the process follows an 18-month consultation with brands and agencies and iterations tested with clients.

One of those brands involved was Formula One, which selected agencies Wavemaker and Brainlabs using the process. Ellie Norman, marketing director of Formula One, tells Marketing Week that the traditional pitch process is “out of kilter with its business need”. She added that the “sheer volume of the RFIs” and “unfocused chemistry meetings” were problematic.

“For us, business is moving fast and the traditional pitch process wasn’t agile enough. It started off on the wrong foot: paper-led, not thought- and business-solution led. We didn’t work alongside our potential agency partners until some way down the process. Where was the taster of a future relationship? We needed innovative, creative solutions and financial rigour – lacking for us in the traditional pitch.”

Suki Thompson, CEO of Oystercatchers, says the existing pitch process is time-consuming and complex and often led by a lengthy brief from procurement that goes unread. She adds that at a time when media owners are working directly with clients and agencies with media owners, a new process is needed to “ensure great partnerships”.

“The Modern Marketing Pitch recognises that a more agile, inclusive and transparent process is required. Looking at an agency purely though the lens of a procurement brief and process is not a great start to a relationship.

“It focuses on the brief, allows for time spent together working on the problem collaboratively, and time to help the relationship work and evolve. We get rid of pointless RFIs, but make sure financials and other legal requirements are analysed up-front and that the agency and client have a transparent approach to their business.

“In an evolving world the pitch can be used to transform both a client and agency business; both should use it to make a difference.”

A second, price-capped, five-day process or ‘sprint pitch’ option is also being offered with smaller brands and agencies in mind.

There have been calls for a new approach to the way business is pitched and won. At an event hosted by Oystercatchers in 2016, reported by Marketing Week, brands and agencies alike highlighted the flaws in the process.