DIRECT MARKETING: A GAME OF TWO HALVES? Ken Gofton investigates who has the most power - advertising agencies or direct marketing shops - when conducting a joint pitch for a piece of business

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

working together."

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

( 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

this programme."


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

single group.

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

personal chemistry".

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