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It’s a question that comes up on a monthly basis (sometimes weekly if it’s pitch season) in the agency world. We all know that pitches are time consuming and costly but in our industry they happen and for the time being are not going to go away.

Clients pitch for different reasons; a souring relationship, to get some new and fresh thinking, to consolidate a large roster or (to quote Martin Sorrell) because they are “focused on their boot straps”.

Don’t get me wrong, pitching is good as it gets the creative juices flowing and ensures we agencies push our thinking, but I just wish it would be more transparent. In a previous blog I wrote about how our role as an agency is to help our clients achieve their ambitions both personally and professionally, and this starts with the pitching process which we can only do if we know all the facts.


When we receive a brief the first thing I make sure we do is find out all the details behind it; Why has it come about? Why us? What are you trying to achieve? Who in your organisation do we need to convince? What do WE need to to do? I also like to find out what other agencies we are up against.

This isn’t just me being nosy, it’s to make sure we have all the details armed to make sure we can make an educated decision as to whether we pitch or not. As I said in the first paragraph, pitching is time consuming and costly and happens usually when current workload is at its peak. As an agency we can make a true decision as to whether to pitch or not when we have these answers.

In most instances if we don’t get the answers we will still pitch. Sometimes we get the answers (we don’t like) and we know it’s a long shot and we will still pitch because the client has been open and we feel that it’s a level playing field. It is then down to us to make sure we do everything we can to win.

3 Key Areas

I don’t like losing, but I can handle it if we have done all we can and we have had all the facts upfront. It’s when we lose and the reason is something out of our control but could have made a difference as to whether we pitched in the first place, if we had known that really bugs me.

I recently read an article in Campaign magazine by Paul Phillips, the MD of the AAR, called Pitch Perfect. He argued that all incumbent agencies should decline to pitch if their client announces their intentions to do so. He suggests that if this was the case the client would have acknowledged 3 important areas:

  1. All retained knowledge would be lost
  2. A new agency will need time
  3. The outgoing incumbent would be free to work with a competitor. If the client was happy with that then fair enough, it probably means the relationship has come to its natural end anyway.

Interesting thoughts indeed, but unlikely at least for the time being. For now we will have to rely on Pitcherator and going through the usual motions and decisions as to whether to pitch or not.

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