Can the agency search for new business ever be ‘pitch positive?’

Pitching is always a bone of contention for agencies (and clients of course), a practice to outsiders that seems like some kind of fetish imported from an ancient civilisation.

All industries have their beauty contests but none where it’s ramped up to the same degree. Agencies moaning about it raises a wry smile: if it’s so wrong and stressful why do it?

Interesting to. note that the recent Sainsbury’s pitch was reportedly held under new ‘Pitch Positive’ guidelines, devised to streamline the process and one in which the agencies even got paid (we don’t know how much.)

Mother, which lost out to New Commercial Arts for Sainsbury’s, has won Jägermeister globally, utilising its new ‘Pitch it forward’ offer of donating the first year’s profit on the business to something which promotes creativity.

The Great Pitch company has been looking into the hopes and fears of the cannon fodder who inhabit the trenches of new business. Its findings include, on competition:

Competition is up across on three counts (‘agencies similar to us’, ‘new agencies’ or ‘in-house agencies’) with:
*Increased competition from in-house agencies,’ up to 19% (versus 10% in 2021)
*Increased competition form agencies similar to our agency’ reported by over a third of respondents 36% (versus 30% in 2021)
*A quarter of all respondents noticed ‘increased competition from new agencies’ 24% (versus 10% in 2021).

New business staff would like:

*More respect for the role of business development: “A thank you once in a while.”
*Changes to the pitch process itself: “Creating pointlessly long RFP documents that nobody reads or comments on.”
*The work-life imbalance: “I hope I can protect my own health.”
*The cost-of-living crisis: “I don’t know, I just want more money.”
*Changes on the client side: “Clients ghosting you (going AWOL) and lack of transparency around budgets.”

There are lots of others but you get the drift.

In practice there seems to be only one sure-fire way to win pitches: make clients want to hire you. If clients think you’re a winner, as they clearly do with James Murphy and David Golding at New Commercial Arts and, before that, adam&eve, then they’ll want to be a member of your club.

Sadly this isn’t an option open to very many.

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