New IPA survey points to agency pitching perils

Pitching for new business (or, indeed, old business in a repitch) has always been a contentious area and the UK’s IPA agency trade body has just produced its first survey of such matters – finding that a fifth of agencies (20 per cent) are unhappy with the way pitches are carried out.

images-1This doesn’t seem such a high proportion given the historic level of grumbling but the reasons given for the dissatisfaction are quite interesting.

They include:

The client brief

Of those who reported a negative pitch experience, only nine per cent said the client brief was well articulated, 60 percentage points lower than those reporting a positive pitch experience.

The interim meetings
Of those who reported a negative pitch experience, only 16 per cent agreed that any interim meetings were handled well, 59 percentage points lower than those reporting a positive pitch experience.

The RFI (request for information)

Only 20 per cent of those reporting a negative experience agreed that the RFI was clear and concise, 55 percentage points lower than those reporting a positive pitch experience.

Feedback from interim meetings

Only 12 per cent of those reporting a negative experience agreed that the feedback from interim meetings was clearly actionable, 55 percentage points lower than those reporting a positive pitch experience.

The client’s requirement of the pitch

Of those who reported a negative pitch experience, only 15 per cent agreed that the client’s requirement of the pitch was clear, 53 percentage points lower than those reporting a positive pitch experience.

Key stakeholder involvement

Of those who reported a negative pitch experience, only 15 per cent agreed that the key stakeholders were involved throughout the pitch process, 51 percentage points lower than those reporting a positive pitch experience.

Historically the biggest grumbles have been that clients don’t pay for pitches (or pay enough) but maybe agencies have given up on this one. When so many are owned by the likes of Omnicom or WPP it’s hard to make the case that they can’t afford it.

Another is that some unscrupulous clients use them as ‘fishing’ expeditions, taking the expensive research commissioned by pitching agencies and using it for their own purposes without awarding the account. But with lawyers crawling all over the process these days this, too, may be on the wane.

One of the newer problems, for clients may be that they’re not wholly sure, in these days of social media and technology all over the place, exactly what kind of agency they require. So British Airways has lined up technology-based agency SapientNitro to pitch alongside the likes of incumbent BBH and Grey London for its consumer ad account. Which suggests that it’s unsure what kind of agency it needs. Or maybe it’s planning to split the account.

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