Feature

Media: Double standards - Being optimistic and passionate can win the day

Fraser Riddell and Nico Guiridlian on developing new business, how to celebrate winning new accounts, making good cups of tea and just what it takes to succeed.

FRASER RIDDELL, CHIEF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT OFFICER, MEDIACOM

- What factors are driving the seemingly large number of international media reviews that are around right now?

In the current climate, clients have an obligation to ensure every last penny is squeezed out of their business and, as part of their supply chain, media agencies are naturally part of that process. As a result, the volume of pitches is larger and more focused on costs.

- What qualities do you need to succeed in your role?

Lots, some contradictory - you need to be passionate, but thick-skinned enough to not take failure too hard. Being paranoid helps make sure issues aren't missed, but it should always be bolted to unfeasible optimism. The last quality is key - a cynical new-business director rarely inspires either the teams around them, or the clients.

- How closely do you work, if at all, with your sister networks?

Given the huge number of marketing services partners within WPP, it's extremely common to be working with one of them. The level of partnership is excellent - we hold high standards for ourselves, are clear on our roles and have a common aim. This creates great teamwork.

- What point of difference does your network really have in a pitch?

The "really" in the question implies the networks don't exhibit any differences. Talk of the commoditisation of our services is overdone, even in these cost-obsessed times - ask any client about their last pitch, they'll say the scorecard showed major differences between the participants. And, yes, I know I didn't answer the question!

- What's the most satisfying pitch process you've been involved in?

There are certain clients who consistently run great pitches - in my experience, Coca-Cola, Shell and Procter & Gamble have the most consistent and highest standards. If a client knows what they want, writes a great brief, attaches it to a robust process and timetable with a fair evaluation system, they'll run a great pitch and pick the best agency for them in the process.

- What's the best piece of 'pitch theatre' you've been involved in or seen from your agency?

My most cringeworthy memories nearly all feature some form of collapsing, exploding, mistimed or inadvertently inappropriate pieces of pitch theatre. That said, it can be critical in bringing to life a compelling story. MediaCom UK has delivered some breathtaking pitches. In one case, the agency dressed the office, the pub next door and a nearby newsagent to highlight a story about the client's brand environments. It led to a phenomenal win.

- How do you celebrate a new-business win?

The most memorable celebration I've organised was for a pitch we actually lost, despite phenomenal work. For a small group, you can't beat a meal at a restaurant of the team's choice and, in the current climate, the office is a good location to throw a party (licensing laws, health and safety permitting, of course!).

NICO GUIRIDLIAN, BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR EMEA, ZENITHOPTIMEDIA WORLDWIDE

- What factors are driving the seemingly large number of international media reviews that are around right now?

Cost, cost and... cost. Pitching, in almost all cases, results in improvements either in the media value delivered by the agencies (guaranteed savings) or in improved terms of business with the agency, or both. When companies are facing difficulties, marketing is often one of the first areas to be pressured into cutting costs. The recession has simply accelerated the process for most companies which already had in mind that they wanted to review in the medium term. Digital is also a driver. Most companies are having to adapt their business and communication models to the digital era. They are looking for media agencies that can help them navigate through the complexity of the new, and constantly evolving, digital media landscape.

- What qualities do you need to succeed in your role?

Enthusiasm, team spirit and being a good tea-maker are key qualities. But you also need to be resilient as pitches don't always have the positive outcome you hope for. Patience and persistence are important traits too as these processes are often long and demanding. It is also about having the ability to understand what potential clients are looking for and to strike up an immediate rapport with them.

- How closely do you work, if at all, with your sister networks?

There is an increased trend from advertisers to look for group solutions. As a group, we are used to delivering such solutions. We have shared platforms and capabilities that all our clients will benefit from.

- What point of difference does your network really have in a pitch?

Two major points of difference - our positioning: the ROI Agency. It gives ZenithOptimedia an extremely compelling position in the market. Especially as these three letters are now more than ever at the top of every marketer's list. The VivaKi Nerve Centre, combining our digital expertise from all our group's agencies, is now the world's largest centre for developing the new technologies necessary to assist our clients in their future growth.

- What's the most satisfying pitch process you've been involved in?

Every pitch presents different challenges and, therefore, different sources of satisfaction once completed. And I have to admit that in a masochist sort of way, I do enjoy all of them (well... most of them). But being able to grow L'Oreal, from having 10 per cent of its global billings to 90 per cent over the past three years, is probably the most satisfying pitch process I have experienced so far.

- What's the best piece of 'pitch theatre' you've been involved in or seen from your agency?

For a successful film client, we turned our offices into a Broadway film premiere with limos, a red carpet, journalists and fans - we were dressed in our tuxedos drinking Champagne at 8am.

- How do you celebrate a new-business win?

As a true Frenchman, I encourage everybody to make their way to our local pub, the Marquis of Granby, where we are ensuring the landlady has a very healthy retirement.

Topics