Joint projects with ad agencies can reach direct marketers in
several ways. They may get the business entirely through their own
efforts - they win a DM pitch and find that the client is looking for
integrated solutions. The work may be a total gift, as when the
network's New York office wins a global account and hands a slice on.
Equally, some accounts result from introductions by the parent
advertising agency, and some are won through joint pitches.
"Strictly off the record," one DM chief says, "the joint pitches with
our ad agency take up far more time, and have by far the lowest success
rate. Pitching with a big agency can be very, very time consuming. But
when they do hit gold, they tend to be massive."
It's clear that clients are increasingly looking for solutions that work
across a range of media and disciplines, and this is affecting the
pitching process in a number of ways.
As Mike Lorimer, the deputy managing director of WWAV Rapp Collins,
notes: "One thing that's been apparent in the past year or two has been
a much greater requirement to demonstrate your culture, and your ability
to work in a team with other agencies. And I think that's because the
more sophisticated client understands the importance of chemistry and
What's also happened is that below-the-line agencies get a better
look-in when a joint pitch is being made. "It used to be the case that
you were allocated five minutes at the end of the pitch, which would be
squeezed to three," John Shaw, the managing director of Brann's European
agencies, says. "Now it does appear to be much more a partnership of
equals, particularly if it's an existing relationship where the client
asks everyone to come back with recommendations."
The situation has improved, but the problem is still there, agrees a
more guarded Mathew Hooper, the chief executive of Interfocus.
Traditionally, the below-the-line disciplines were seen as the poor
cousins, he adds, and in the pitching process, the ad agencies would
both take the lead and round off the proceedings.
"If you're invited along by an ad agency, it's probably because they
recognise the client needs direct marketing and they haven't the skills
in-house," Hooper says. "That may mean they don't understand the nuances
of the other disciplines. So you can have their creative department
developing work that is brilliant on TV or in the press, but doesn't
translate very well into direct marketing."
The major communications groups, of course, like to promote the idea
that their integration systems are in place, and that they can offer
"best in class" across the range of skills, including advertising, DM,
sales promotion, PR, sponsorship and event management.
Clients don't always buy that, however. One of the agencies in the team
may have a problem with client conflict. The client may fail to get on
with the people in one agency, or may just be allergic to the big group,
one-stop shop approach.
So there is still room for independent agencies on both sides of the
line to play the joint pitch game, even if their numbers are dwindling.
As Carlson's chairman, Marcus Evans, says: "It's a bit like a singles
club these days. Four or five of us, and four or five of them."
KICKING THE HABIT: Nicorette sparks up a relationship with BHWG
One of the problems in the market for anti-smoking aids is that all the
products sound alike - Nicotinel, Niquitin, Nico-this and Nico-that.
This applies equally to Pharmacia's Nicorette. So when Abbott Mead
Vickers BBDO and its sister agency, BHWG Proximity, were approached to
develop a global campaign for the Nicorette range, a key challenge was
to achieve differentiation.
"We went in together as BBDO," Proximity's client services director, Ian
Thomas, explains. "Once we had won the business, we then had the
opportunity to explain that we were two sister networks, working closely
The problem for smokers is to beat cigarettes one at a time. The
creative idea, which translates equally well both above and below the
line, is literally to "beat the craving" - embodied in the figure of a
giant cigarette, set upon by consumers (left).
Relationship marketing is very much part of the process. Research shows
that, around the world, two-thirds of smokers would like to quit even
if, at any one time, only 5 per cent are trying to do so. People can
think about giving up for up to two years before making a real effort to
kick the habit.
The relationship-building programme is sophisticated, but is not fully
implemented in all markets.
It includes direct mail, database marketing, the internet
(www.nicorette.net) and point of sale.
"It's about understanding the quitting process, and whether the
individual is actively quitting or just thinking about it," Thomas says.
"We are able to use the cigarette man as a creative vehicle to enhance
A CLIENT'S TALE: VSO
VSO is the organisation that places volunteers, old and young, in jobs
in developing countries. Last year, to achieve greater efficiency and
integration, it set out to replace its two existing agencies with a
A select few were invited to tender.
VSO's communications director, Mathew Bell, doesn't believe in agencies
rolling up to the client's offices to pitch. Nor does he want to see
creative proposals before the agency has had a chance to get to know the
organisation and its problems.
"What you get is half-a-dozen people, all in black, making a fancy
PowerPoint presentation," he says. "What you need to do is go to the
agency, meet the people and get a feel for how their organisation
matches yours. It's the chemistry you have to find."
Bell asked the contenders to host a workshop. Five critical issues
facing VSO were outlined to the agencies in advance. Each had to select
three, and give their thinking and responses to them in 90 minutes.
"Some got through only two issues in the time, and a couple presented
creative work even though they had been told specifically not to," Bell
says. "We thought, if you can't answer that simple brief, how are you
going to handle the budget?"
He's coy about saying exactly which agency groups were in the frame, but
Leo Burnett/Leonardo won the account "for its tactical insight, and the