So, pitching. The most frightening part of advertising for me to be honest. Public speaking is… not my strong point. I speak quickly in every day conversation, let alone when I’m nervously presenting something in front of people. I think in every presentation I’ve ever given throughout my life, I’ve been told to slow down because the audience couldn’t understand me. Interestingly, I’m the kind of person who gives kickass birthday speeches, but I guess that’s because by 9PM at the event I’m about five glasses of wine deep. Probably couldn’t get away with that in a professional setting.
The purpose of this article (well, assignment, really – Glen, Ian, a hearty welcome once again to you both) is to take a look at the process of pitching for new business and to examine whether or not there is a better way of doing things. If there is, I’ll definitely be all for it.
So, lets begin.
I guess to start it pays to look at how things currently happen in the industry. Obviously, new business is absolutely key to the success of any agency, and pitching has historically been ‘the way’ to present your agency and its capabilities to potential clients.
Occasionally, some clients will approach an agency and give them work based simply off their reputation – the agency may have recently been awarded, or have done some work for a competitor that garners some attention, for example – but this is absolutely a rarity. Generally, a client will whittle down a list of agencies they want to work with through an audit of their work and probably meeting with them or at least knowing someone within the agency. The agency will then call a pitch, or invite your agency to pitch, and it’s on.
Just because there’s a pitch happening, doesn’t necessarily mean you have to partake, by the way. There’s lots of important factors to consider when deciding whether or not to pitch. First and foremost, you have to consider what it’s worth to you. Will the money, time and resources you’ll inevitably have to sink into the project in order to give yourself the best shot at winning be worth it?
You’ll more than likely be diverting resources away from other clients who are already clients – it’s kind of a bizarre little set up we’ve got going on when you think about it. So the question here is: how much effort can you put into the pitch without taking too much away from your currently happy, paying clients?
I suppose the best way to answer these questions is to ask more questions. What is the pitch? Can we pull it off? What is the budget? Who are we up against? What are their strengths/weaknesses? What are ours? Will we piss off client x by working with this new client? Do we know anyone at the client end who will make our lives easier? What will winning or losing this pitch do to our business?
These are all important things to consider when deciding whether or not to accept the pitch offer. Yes, this is all before even deciding whether or not you’ll actually give the damn thing a shot! That’s not even to consider the amount of soul-searching and deep digging you’ll have to do as an agency once you actually get around to doing anything.
Look, on a personal level, I get the whole idea of pitching in its essence, but the more I hear about it, the more I’m just like… no way. I mean, imagine being the incumbent agency (good word, incumbent. Satisfying. Incumbent. Lovely.) Imagine getting that call like ‘yeah so we are gonna pitch ur business lmao soz’ (which, quite frankly, is exactly how I would broach the subject because I am a Professional AdultTM)
Like… what would you even say? Would you even bother trying to pitch for it again?
Obviously in certain fields like government pitches are mandatory every once in a while, but jeez. You’d have to be having a good, hard look at yourself if one of your big clients pulls the plug. Certainly, if someone new rocks up into the business and starts changing things around, you might simply be collateral damage, but what if it’s literally just because your work is a bit shit? No thank you.
Imagine what that could do to your other business, or your future prospects? You’d be walking down the hall (I’m picturing ad world as one big high school at this point, just go with it) with your head down while people look at you and whispered in hushed tones…
‘ooh, Ogilvy just lost the Coke account’
‘I heard Woolworths are thinking of dumping him’
‘I heard she designed an app for Royal Society of the Blind but forgot to use any audio. They just had the whole app in text. Text! She’s such a mess’
I guess for me it’s like… why do you need to do some big song and dance number showing off your personality just to present your idea? If your idea is good, why do you need to back it up with some flashy, gimmicky Keynote presentation?
I’d much prefer a super casual business meeting (is that a misnomer? You know what I mean… and if not, I know what I mean) where you can discuss ideas back and forth and your agency receives business based on its merit as an agency. Having a bad pitch could lose you a lucrative gig, even if your portfolio is stellar. That seems ridiculous to me.
Having said that, I do understand why pitches are a thing, and I get the appeal of having a showcase of your ideas and your agency personality and wowing the client with your stuff in an audition-type setting and yadda yadda yadda. And they do make sense when you think about it in that sense.
That ‘wow’ factor is what it’s really all about, after all. I guess if you want your audience to be wowed, you’ve gotta wow your client, and that’s really tough to do in any other setting. I think I just hate the idea so much that I’d do almost anything to avoid being in one.
So I guess that, in answer to the question of ‘is there a better way?’ I’d say that I can think of ways I would PREFER to do things, but these may not necessarily be ‘better’. I was really hoping that I’d have some brainwave during this assignment and think of something better and become rich and all that. Oh well. I suppose I’d better come to terms with the idea of having to pitch things after all!
(P.S. Glen: if any of the ~rival groups~ ask, I’m 110% fine with pitching and will also kick their asses come pitch day thank you very much because I will NOT show weakness because I really want to win thank you please very much so to you)