It’s Time To Ditch The Pitch

It’s Time To Ditch The Pitch

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'To fix the agency pitch process, get rid of it'. It's a bold statement but one we are sure many in the industry (agency-side at least) would agree with. In this opinion piece Forbes blogger and founder of Avidan Strategies Avi Dan argues that the pitch process is notoriously flawed.


Something so integral to the success of a brand when acquiring a new agency — the pitch process — is notoriously flawed.

Long lead times, long pitch lists, layers of consensus needed to select a partner, meaningless paperwork for RFPs, requests for spec work, lack of access to decision makers, cost pressure from procurement for the agency, search consultants who don’t have in-depth knowledge of agencies…just to name a few problems that need addressing.

The new business pitch is the way agencies win most of their business and grow, especially in the current environment in which marketing budgets are flat. Because of that agencies ignore existing clients and spend a disproportionate amount of time and money chasing new business.

Agencies, especially those that are part of a holding company, are given very specific profit targets, each and every quarter, which are not to be missed. In an advertising market that is growing at a low single digit, if at all, holding companies are still asking their operating units, the agencies, for double digits growth. That’s right – sometimes up to three or four times the growth of the market.

This means that agencies have to win a hell of a lot of new business to achieve that nearly impossible goal.

Once, when I was part of the leadership of an agency that was owned by one of the big holding companies, I sat down and calculated how many new business pitches we had to win to meet the budget target. It turned out that we needed to win 40 per cent of all pitches. I don’t mean winning 40 percent of our pitches, the ones that we were already involved in. I mean 40 per cent of all major pitches in the U.S! That is absurd…

Do clients really need the pitch? Well, look at it this way: The pitch is created inside of a bubble, one that has no relation to the real situation or to what working with the agency would really be like; agencies focus on creating the perfect pitch as opposed to the perfect solution to the client’s problem. Furthermore, the winning creative idea often winds up in the end looking nothing like what was originally presented. As we know, once the pitch is won, the ideas presented are often tweaked and altered, if not totally discarded.

There needs to be greater value put on, not just selling an idea to the client during the pitch, but on also selling the approach to an idea.

To read the full piece by Avi Dan on Forbes click here. 

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