Pitching is an integral part of creative agencies’ DNA for acquiring new business or even retaining the existing business. For something so integral to the success of an agency, it is alarming to know that the pitch process is mostly notoriously distraught. According to a Provoke Insights study done in 2015, approximately 47 per cent of advertising professionals surveyed said that they were dissatisfied with the current approach to pitching.
For agencies, pitching new business is often a drain on resources, time and morale, and it doesn’t always result in the best pairing of clients and their creative partners. BestMediaInfo.com interacted with industry leaders to weigh in the pain points of creative pitches.
Problems related to creative pitches are a vicious circle and to come out of it, one needs to identify them and then find solutions. This listicle is divided into two parts. The first part talks about the problems related to creative pitches and the second part will talk about the solutions.
This compilation is based on the conversation with Govind Pandey, CEO, TBWA; Kapil Arora, President, Ogilvy Group Companies, North, Ogilvy & Mather; Ambarish Ray, Director, COO, Metal Communications; Shiv Sethuraman, The New Business; Vistasp Hodiwala, CCO and Co-Founder, Underdog and Shivil Gupta, ECD, Dentsu Impact.
No time for creatives to ideate
When a pitch is called by clients and a particular time is allotted to the agencies to prepare, most of that time is spent by the strategy and planning people on the pitch and then the creative directors are approached to look for an idea.
Gupta added, “The ratio of time spent by planning and creative is not right. More time is taken by the planning and strategy people and very less is given to the creative ones, which makes difficult to find insights.”
Also, time gap between briefing and calling for presentation is not enough. Sethuraman added, “Most clients don’t plan for enough time between briefing and asking for presentations. As a result, they don’t get great output and have to do multiple rounds.”
Say no to speculative creative pitches
Agencies should be careful before jumping into the speculative pitch well. One should do a proper background check on the brand, its expectations, scope and ambition before even agreeing to pitch. In the run to maintain business P/L, agencies tend to pitch for any brand without giving a much thought. A senior agency official said, “This generally happens with agencies that are either independent or struggling to maintain costs or the bigger ones that have pressures from their parent network and have too many people to deploy on any kind of a pitch.”
Pandey said, “The fact that you have limited number of people, you need to be choosy with the kind of brands you want to work with. A new business pitch is a big cost. A lot of time and resources are spent on it and that itself should limit the number of pitches you want to do.”
Trouble creative agencies for the pitch sake
Another problem that creatives talk about is that at times CMOs call pitches just for the sake of completely mandatory requirements of calling a pitch. At times, the marketers already have a set agency in their mind but call for a pitch for the sake of it. This happens when a marketer joins from another company and favours an agency he has worked with.
Excessive pitching depletes quality of creativity
A major contributor to long working hours, and in some cases staff burnout, is excessive pitching. It’s tough on the creatives because they are constantly being asked for new ideas. It is a demanding process.
Evergreen pitch fee problem
Agencies not being paid for pitching is a vicious problem for the industry. Unity is needed to come to a permanent solution and that is not happening soon. On the one hand, the agencies say they should be paid as a lot of time, money and creativity go in making even a sample presentation. On the other hand, many agencies are willing to present bids for free if clients don’t oblige. Although, there are a few agencies that do not pitch until they are paid a fee.
Pitching for projects
Although projects bring monies to the agencies in the short-term, but preparing for project pitches is a nuisance because it is for the short-term and agencies have to come up with ideas each time. There is no surety that the client would come back to the agency for another project or a longer term agreement as well.
Arora said, “The ticket size is so little that it makes the process very unviable. It is time wastage to spend one month of pitch preparation for a two-month project.”
Generally, the final discussion on money matters happens in the final round of any pitch. The agency charging les to the brand has a chance to be selected which puts the other agency’s hard work in vain. A senior official, who didn’t want to be quoted, said that it has happened with them a few times that in the final round when they are almost about to win the account, the client selects the agency that charged less.
Too many participants in the pitch
It is also another big problem where clients call too many agencies for a pitch. This wastes the client’s as well as the agencies’ time. The flocking number of independent agencies joining pitches throws competition to the bigger ones. Too many ideas also make it difficult for the clients to choose and simultaneously put unnecessary pressure on the agencies to compete with the bunch of fellow colleagues from the industry.
Pandey said, “The clients who don’t know their mind and what they are looking for, generally invite everybody. The pitch meetings become crowded with too many agencies.”
Evaluation metrics of agencies not clear
Sethuraman explains this point really well. He said, “In the best conducted pitches, the clients’ criterion of evaluation is always clear. For example, they might decide to give significant weightage to the past work of the agency and its local office strength and low weightage to the actual pitch campaign. But often this is not transparent so agencies don’t know what they’re being judged on.”