We all hear about the horror with which pitches are referred to within agency-land.
But just how damaging or beneficial are they to agencies and do we stop to make sure that they make sense?
The pitch is the most alien way of deciding who to date? Not only do you invite 10 unsuspecting individuals to put on their “best-selves” in a beauty parade, but ultimately when you select your desired partner, after the 5th date, you find “the love of your life” is suddenly replaced by their friends– who look nothing like the witty, charming and beautiful shiny individual that you selected in the beauty parade.
Then comes the fee or mostly non-fee pitches. It makes complete sense, that if you are asked to spend over 2,000 hours on a piece of work / intellectual property that you would normally be paid for that time. Even a token payment but no, mostly the pitch is on risk / reward and the chance of reward can be quite slim.
More and more, we see brands moving away from retainers and looking at project based contracts and this actually makes sense for both sides. You are only as good as your last piece of work and you can judge that based on producing real work, where it’s not just a creative idea being judged, it’s the ability for the agency to scale and operate efficiently and let’s face it…. operational ability to produce consistent work is everything.
Rather than rely on pitches, it appears that the most logical way of doing so would be a hybrid of project based trials. Rather give two or three agencies pockets of work and judging them on reality, not a beauty parade.
If you are great at what you do, then people will use word of mouth and referral. Then the process is about making sure that the “really great” agency, has the strength and depth to remain good if they take on your work too.
Large agencies are often part of the same network and pitch against each other, that’s like Man United playing Man United in the Champions League Final. But we know that this is designed for the networks to be able to command different and conflicting clients in the same verticals. So, everyone just accepts it as normal.
It does makes some sense for pitches to exist for the “big guys” where there is little to differentiate between large agency X and Y. When you need a big idea, that is “of scale” then sure, you probably need a large agency or network. So, sometimes the only way to judge the winner, is to rely on the pitch process.
But for the smaller guys, pitching is very risky. Rather collaborate with the larger independent agencies (not many exist anymore) and offer the services, where you know they have limited strength and depth.
So, our opinion is that pitches are:
- inevitable for the big guys
- way too risky for the medium sized guys
- and to be avoided at all costs for the small specialists
And for the individuals that work 1,000’s of hours on them every year? Well you either love them or love-hate them, either way – just ask that they are helping you further your experience and/or driving your career forward through bagging wins? If you are not winning and have learned all the skills – then maybe it’s time to put up your “pitch” boots.
Pitches are suicide when you spend more time focusing on winning “the next thing” at the cost of your current clients that can be a very fast spiral to the bottom.