Diary: Clients' pitch paranoia is sheer madness at times

Paranoid clients beware: tampering with pitch briefings in order to disguise that you are embarking on a review can often backfire and rarely achieve the desired effect.

Every agency that's ever pitched has an anecdote about the lengths to which clients will go to stop details of their brief escaping into the public consciousness.

Diary was reminded of how such paranoia can damage the pitch process recently when Wal-Mart printed the brief for its $570 million advertising business on red paper so that the document couldn't be photocopied. Unfortunately, agencies couldn't even make copies to distribute to their own staff. D'oh!

Another famous adland tale tells how the AAR once issued a false brief to see if it got into the press, but the ruse backfired when a number of agencies went to the trouble of producing a submission.

Suspicions are often aroused by matchmakers that supply agencies with differing "requests for pitch" to sniff out any whistle-blower.

Some clients merely ban agencies from taking notes in briefing sessions, while others make them sign scary non-disclosure agreements before they can participate.

But perhaps the best example of a client with full-on pitch paranoia was in the 2004 Phones 4 U contest. Agencies did not know the identity of the client until the parties involved were inside the room and the door was closed. Diary can only wonder if it was worth the effort.