Campaign podcast: new-business activity picking up and 'Zoom pitches' here to stay

AAR's Victoria Fox and Ingenuity's Duncan Wood discuss what they are learning as agencies pitch over video chat.

Fox and Wood: pitch meetings over Zoom may be here to stay
Fox and Wood: pitch meetings over Zoom may be here to stay

New-business activity is poised to pick up in the advertising industry in the coming weeks, two of the UK’s leading pitch consultants have signalled, as the country eases social-distancing requirements. 

Speaking on this week’s episode of the Campaign podcast, AAR chief executive Victoria Fox said the number of enquiries from brands had increased in "the last couple of weeks".

Fox explained: "That is coinciding with a change in the crisis mode into a more ‘ongoing’ mode for clients and agencies… Partly because the first few weeks was ‘crisis management’ and trying to flip to working remotely and deliver products in a different way."

After a lull over the Easter period, Fox has seen in recent weeks that "this isn’t going to be a quick flip back to whatever normality was, so you [brands] need to plan in this new sort of normal".

Duncan Wood, managing partner at Ingenuity London, said the consultancy had seen a "healthy" number of briefs coming through during the pandemic period because it specialises in digital, social media and performance marketing briefs.

Both Fox and Wood believe that online pitch meetings are here to stay, even when the industry returns to "normal", however, because video-based presentations are adding efficiencies and unexpected benefits into the process that should be retained.

"This is a moment in time to shake up hard costs that are sunk in pitches," Fox said. "We’ve been talking to a number of agencies that have said: ‘When you’re not focused on having to print all this material, your’re saving trees, saving money and spending the time on the most important thing, which is thinking and answering new business challenges for clients.'" 

Wood agreed: "There’s an opportunity here to speed up certain processes… more interaction, more new-business relationships, new perspectives for clients and easier access for clients to speak to new agencies."

One of those efficiencies is shorter pitch meetings. The average online pitch meeting is between 45 minutes and an hour, but Fox admitted that online pitches had been "exhausting" because they require more energy despite people sitting at home. 

She explained: "We’re missing that sense of feeling when you can read the room and feel things, so we have to overcompensate by leaning in and giving a lot of energy to the session and really listening harder than ever. It is exhausting, which is why shorter sessions are important."

Zoom has been the preferred video chat option for clients to run pitch meetings, particularly because the platform’s "breakout room" option allows for more varied styles of meeting and for more people to take part. Ingenuity had previously suggested that no more than three or four people should take part in a pitch, but it now recommends as many as six if the meetings are organised well. 

Wood suggested online meetings may also encourage greater inclusivity by enabling people with more introverted personalities to shine. He said: "I’ve noticed that where agencies' teams previously may have been nervous, or potentially individuals may have been drowned out by some more dominant figures, the video format has allowed some of these people to come into their own a little bit." 

Other tips from the consultants for running pitch meetings over video chat:

  • Wood: "You can’t look someone in the eye over Zoom, so referring to people by name is a really good way of maintaining attention."

  • Fox: "Use less on the charts and use less charts overall."

  • Wood: "Make sure slides come on and off the screen. I’ve seen some sessions where a slide stays up for the majority of a session and you can’t really engage with people and see their reactions particularly well."

This episode was recorded by No.8 and edited by Ben Londesbrough at Campaign.

Running order

2.07: How are advertising companies planning to ask staff to return to offices?
6.00: What’s in store for agency start-up New Commercial Arts 
12.45: Agencies standing up to "bullying" clients 
15.40: Fox and Wood discuss how brands are running online pitch meetings
38.09: Ads featuring the BBC, HSBC, KFC and TikTok

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