by Johanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) Earlier this year, there was a lot of discussion around the merits of the pitch process and even talk around the “death of the pitch”. Yet, with more than 80% of agency appointments being made by marketers and procurement via a pitch process according to data from AgencyScope, it seems highly unlikely that the pitch process is out of date or unnecessary.

Our own experience this year has even demonstrated the importance of the pitch, both for clients and agencies.

Ten reasons

So, here are 10 reasons why pitching will still be with us as an industry for some time to come:

  1. Pitching is neither dead nor old-fashioned, as long as it is run professionally and respectfully to all involved — brands and agencies alike
  2. There are many different types of pitches that may be used eg creative, strategic, with or without RFIs, workshops, deep dives, fireside chats and pitch safaris — the skill comes in employing the most-appropriate approach
  3. Media pitches have to include due diligence across media pricing, quality, technology and transparency — these are the minimum requirements that brands should be looking for in their media-selection process.
  4. Corporate governance is particularly important in publicly funded pitches, ie government and SOE pitches, where pitches have to take place as a matter of course and not because of any client dissatisfaction — as a result, these pitches are managed differently.
  5. Some opportunities don’t require a full-on pitch, especially when the project is small-scale or pro bono — this means just meeting some agencies, looking at their work and making a decision
  6. Anyone can run a pitch and appoint an agency but achieving a long-term successful relationship, proven to deliver better work and better outcomes, needs a level of skill from those running and participating in the pitch that is not always evident
  7. It’s not always necessary for agencies to do a huge amount of work in a pitch, with the hope that, if they win, they’ll be paid; rather, they should work like some of the strategy consultancies do, who show what they have done for other brands and their methodology and approach — this would be enough for many brands to make a decision
  8. Agencies will freely admit that pitching galvanises the agency in a way that cannot be replicated — long hours, teamwork and getting “match-fit” are part of an agency’s DNA and will often produce its best work
  9. The best-run pitches are not always a guarantee of business success for the work for that brand — but they can provide a degree of reassurance at top level for a brand that will resonate in the C-suite
  10. If you’re a chief marketing officer (CMO) about to embark on a pitch process, work out what it is you really want from an agency and then undertake the most-appropriate pitch programme that stands the best chance of delivering what you want; if you are an agency and you don’t want to participate in a pitch, then don’t — it is always your choice.

AAR Group may be credited for some of the content in this piece.


Johanna McDowellJohanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) is MD of the Independent Agency Search and Selection Company (IAS), which is partnered with the AAR Group in the UK. Johanna is one of the few experts driving this mediation and advisory service in SA and globally. She also runs the IAS Marketers Masterclass, a programme consisting of masterclasses held in Cape Town and in Johannesburg. Twice a year she attends AdForum Worldwide Summits.

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