Is it time for the pitching process to evolve?

Industry leaders deliberate about the work involved in the pitching process and what needs to change

e4m by Noel Dsouza
Updated: May 17, 2019 9:20 AM
Pitching Process

More than 60 per cent of brands and 90 per cent of agencies want to see a change in the pitching process, says a study by CreativeBreif. 

The survey also shows that 82% of agencies agree they should be prepared to refuse a pitch to bring about a change and this will only take place when brands become more personalised in their approach in promoting a product, and agencies turn down clients when they call to pitch. 

In order to get a better perspective, exchange4media spoke to advertising industry leaders about the pitching process in 2019 and how things should change. 

Sumanto Chattopadhyay, Chairman, CCO, 82.5 Communications, The Ogilvy Group is of the opinion that agencies love to throw themselves at new challenges and they go into every pitch with huge enthusiasm. Chattopadhyay says the work done on a pitch is based on the imperfect knowledge of the brand. But sometimes that can be beneficial in bringing a fresh perspective to communication.

“What I find disturbing is that some clients call in a laundry list of agencies to a pitch. Sometimes, in hindsight, you realise that your agency was there to fulfil a quota because judging by the nature of the client or brand, a different kind of agency was always better suited to get the mandate,” he stated. 
Chattopadhyay’s plea to marketers is that they should call an agency to a pitch only if they seriously see them as a potential partner. “While those marketers take out just one hour from their busy schedules to attend the pitch, the agency puts in a disproportionate amount of effort to do justice to that one-hour presentation,” he said.

Speaking on whether the pitching process has become self-destructive, Virat Tandon, Group CEO, MullenLowe Lintas Group says, “For various reasons, a ‘pitch’ is steadily becoming a bad word. For one, there is a trend of calling for pitches for every new project brief. These are typically low in value, but high on involvement. These clients are not usually looking for an agency partner but for a campaign. Typically, the turnaround time required is approximately 2 weeks.”

The pitch process begins with inviting a minimum of six to eight agencies for the pitch. The shortlisting process involves a second round, sometimes even a third for a follow-up. Finally, at the pricing stage, you discover that the client’s budget was less than half of what you thought. 

“In the whole process, the agency utilises resources worth several crores in order to generate one campaign for which a client will probably pay Rs 50-60 lakh. This is quite an irresponsible pitching exercise. If indeed a client cannot afford to keep an AOR and wants to work on a project basis, the better approach should be to select the agency on the basis of their work. The actual work done by an agency is an excellent indicator of what they will be able to do for you,” Tandon said. 

The pitch process definitely needs to evolve, he said. “Some aspects, like an indication of the size of the business, limit negotiation to 10-15 per cent. Just 3 to 4 agencies and a mandatory pitch fee should help restrict the number of agencies the client would be willing to invite and this will also hasten the process.”

Collaborative work sessions between the agency and client teams should be encouraged as part of the process rather than just two interactions - first one for the briefing and the second one at the pitch presentation. The agency should be given adequate time for in-depth investigation and market research. 

“From an agency point of view, too much pitching also reduces the seriousness and quality of pitching. Agencies need to also ensure that they use the time allocated to do a holistic job and not just put together a creative pitch at the last minute. There needs to be a robust process to demonstrate how the agency functions because at the end of the day, whether you win or not, you will definitely leave an impression about the agency brand that the audience will carry for a long time,” Tandon added. 

“Pitching is great fun when it’s clean and collaborative and there is a good reward both in terms of money as well as the potential to do great work,” he said.

Talking about the adrenaline that the pitching process emotes, Prashanth Challapalli, Chief Operating Officer, Leo Burnett Orchard said: “Agencies love pitching. It gets the competitive juices flowing and we all love deadlines, don’t we? Honestly speaking, agencies are enjoying the pitching process less and less. It’s time-consuming, costs a lot and takes up a lot of resource time from paying clients. My recommendation, evolve the pitching process. Make it a genuinely exciting and pleasurable experience and not a chore that must be endured.”

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