Huawei's pitch conduct branded 'unacceptable'

Huawei, the Chinese tech company, has been accused of an "unacceptable" lack of transparency as it holds pitches with creative agencies for a global brief to launch a new smartphone.

Huawei: under fire from MAA for a ‘lack of transparency’
Huawei: under fire from MAA for a ‘lack of transparency’

The Marketing Agencies Association has criticised Huawei’s plans to create "an agency pool" in a process that the body believes involves too many shops. 

The MAA also claimed that its intervention has led to Huawei granting a five-figure pitch payment to unsuccessful agencies. 

Matt Sullivan, the MAA’s head of membership, said that agencies were not made aware by Huawei of a pitch fee before the body’s involvement.

Sullivan added: "This lack of transparency around the process is unacceptable. Agencies are increasingly being asked to put a value on their ideas without any certainty of implementing the work."

Huawei told Campaign that fewer than ten agencies across different marketing disciplines were invited to pitch "at the start of the engagement" but would not disclose the pitch fee or the date on which agencies were first informed about it. 

A Huawei spokesman said: "We recognise and respect the enormous investment agencies make in the pitching process. That is why – from the outset – we ensured that a core element of the process was a pitching fee."

Why are brands still getting pitches wrong?

Tom Knox, president, IPA:
"Agencies let bad clients get it wrong but have got to take responsibility and just say no. If agencies continue to accept bad practice, then it is going to keep happening. There also needs to be some more education – the problem is most clients don’t do pitches very often and therefore don’t know how to do it. It would be good if ISBA can redouble their efforts in trying to educate clients. It would be also be great if more clients were members of ISBA."

Debbie Morrison, director of consultancy and best practice, ISBA: 
"Some clients think they understand what they are doing without a consultant’s help. But often they won’t appreciate that the industry has become more complex in what agencies can do. They think every agency can do everything, which makes for bigger lists. Running pitches is more complex than it used to be. It becomes even more of a problem if a client is based far away and might not understand the local market."

Matt Sullivan, head of membership, Marketing Agencies Association:
"The process still isn’t working for either of them [agencies or brands]. I’d argue that procurement has to take the bulk of the blame for this. The agency/client relationship is unique and so is the pitch process; however, procurement is implementing techniques and process from elsewhere that are causing huge issues. Rates are being squeezed. Work has become commoditised."

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