AdLib: Success on pitch can hit campaign
Media & Marketing with Michael Cullen
The way ad agencies pitch for new business is deeply flawed and the industry guidelines that members of the Institute of Advertising Practitioners in Ireland (IAPI) observe need to change, according to a leading agency boss.
Chemistry MD Ray Sheerin insists creative should be left out of pitches altogether and says the way pitches are run often results in advertisers getting weaker campaigns.
“We all accept pitching for new business is expensive and time-consuming for both clients and agencies,” Sheerin told AdLib. “But my real issue is that the process leads to the wrong outcome as advertisers get weaker campaigns than they need. It’s all due to the make-up of the client pitch team and because the normal, day-to-day client-agency set-up cannot take place in a pitch.”
Proof of this is seen with most campaigns rolled out after a new agency is appointed. Sheerin says it’s hard to see why the advertiser chose the new agency in the first place. Usually, much better work emerges after a couples of years when the relationship has been allowed to properly bed in. Sheerin proposes the adoption of a new five-stage pitching process.
Firstly, a market review. Advertisers would choose a shortlist of non-conflicted agencies based on skills, size, experience, etc. The agencies wouldn’t be involved at this point and the advertisers could complete the search online, with or without the help of a pitch doctor. The advertiser would then meet with the shortlisted agencies for about an hour-long credentials presentation.
At this stage, the advertiser could get a more in-depth look at the agency’s work, its people and culture. It’s also a time where the prospective client can address any specific requirements around the scope of the work they might have. Sheerin says the third stage in his agency’s pitch proposal revolves around the cultural fit and an ability to work well together.
As this stage requires the advertiser to commit a few hours to meetings in a simulated work environment, there should be no more than three agencies involved. For instance, an agency could provide a strategic market review or an analysis of the category in which the client operates. One approach is a workshop with the prospective client where issues are teased out.
Sheerin believes that by this stage of the process, most senior marketers can make a decision. They start to contract negotiations with the preferred agency. Having replicated a real working process, the agency-client relationship has been ‘road tested’ and is more productive earlier. The final ‘trial run’ involves no more than two but preferably just the one agency working with the advertiser on some strategic and creative ideas, working to a brief provided.
It allows the advertiser disclose information the agency needs and allow time for the right ‘chemistry’ and level of trust between the parties. Sheerin says the agency also asks for a pitch fee aimed to defray some of the third-party costs. Whether or not other agencies will buy into what Sheerin is proposing is hard to say.
Some people in adland feel that while agencies are good at talking the talk on making changes to pitching procedures, others thrive on being in a three or four-horse race where they get a chance to show off the agency’s creative talent.