Pitching crisis drives IPA and ISBA to produce a ‘no nonsense’ guide

Agencies chase growth even more than they chase awards, but that drive to keep proving your worth and pushing your capabilities can be a massive drain on increasingly limited resources.

So much so that the IPA and ISBA have come up with a new guide, called “Finding an Agency,” in an attempt to encourage a more reasonable and transparent approach to the process. Creative pitches can easily cost £200,000 and the outcome – in terms of what is really up for grabs – is often uncertain.

Clients are not the only ones to blame for the high cost of pitches – the urge to outdo the competition regularly pushes agencies too far. As Gareth Collins, CEO of Mcgarrybowen London, said: “It’s too easy to get carried away and present absolutely everything. You keep going until you put an ad on the underside of a manhole cover just to show how it would work there. The clients leave the room and can’t remember half of it.”

The new guide is an update on a 2009 report, and the industry has changed a lot since then. Agencies no longer have the extra capacity to divert into pitches, which is why they need more transparency so they can make a more informed decision about whether to pitch and what resources to put into it.

Lucozade looks like a legitimate prize and the pitching agencies will be throwing everything at it, but too many pitches are procurement led or, like Marks & Spencer’s clothing and home account, a move to downgrade advertising’s role in the business.

Lots of big agencies – said to include Leo Burnett, Lucky Generals, Ogilvy and VCCP – turned down the chance to pitch for Audi, which BBH has established as one of the UK’s best creative accounts, on the basis that it was all about driving down costs, but who’s to say they were right?

Creativebrief’s research shows that 93 per cent of agencies don’t think the traditional pitch process is fit for purpose, and 61 per cent of brands agree. Pitching is so messed up that 79 per cent of agencies don’t even think it gives you a sense of what it will be like to work with a client.

Joyce Kelso, the IPA’s associate director of marketing, said: “Selecting a new agency can bring fantastic new ideas and opportunities, but can also be overly bureaucratic, lengthy and costly for both sides. This best-practice guide will enable the industry to develop pitch processes that work for everyone and result in long-term sustainable relationships.”

Andrew Lowdon, director of agency services at ISBA, said: “Finding an agency isn’t difficult, finding the right agency can be. Getting the review right can only lead to a better relationship and a shared vision that provide the greatest opportunity of unlocking great innovative ideas.”

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