EDITORIAL: Shops must stand together on pitches

Clients riding roughshod over pitch guidelines are occupational

hazards most agencies endure in silent rage.

So it's both refreshing and depressing that Miles Calcraft Briginshaw

Duffy has gone public over its treatment by Ellesse, the sportswear

company, to win greater protection for agencies forced to pay a heavy

price when a pitch is aborted.

Refreshing, because ad people are usually reluctant to speak out for

fear of getting a reputation for whinging and being turned into pariahs

in a massively over-supplied market. Depressing, because it indicates

that the much-vaunted pitch guidelines agreed by the IPA and ISBA have

not yet stemmed a stream of agency contests that have proved a waste of

everybody's time and money. Hackett, the upmarket clothes brand, and

Brita, the water filter company, are among those that stand accused.

Adequate financial compensation for agencies when a pitch is abandoned

is a loophole in the guidelines which needs plugging. Agencies should

risk some of their own money in the pursuit of new business, but

Ellesse's offer of pounds 5,000 to each of its finalists is unrealistic

- an agency may spend that in the first few days.

A decent 'kill fee' may be of little consequence to global agency

networks with substantial new-business budgets. But it may be crucial to

a start-up whose thirst for new business leaves it vulnerable to

exploitation and whose partners have put their houses on the line.

So what can be done to stop pitch fiascos? First, there must be more

straight-talking from the outset. Ellesse has indicated that it would

only appoint an agency whose work was better than its in-house. Miles

Calcraft says that if it had known this, it wouldn't have pitched.

Second, agencies must not be reluctant to discuss money at the earliest

stage. It's an odd contradiction that advertising, so upfront about most

things, gives free consultancy advice and a licence to steal its


Third, there needs to be more naming and shaming of the serial offenders

of the client community. Maybe the IPA could help by posting on its

website the pitch histories of advertisers currently reviewing their


Campaign has been called countless times by agencies with shameful

stories of shabby treatment by client prospects. But when challenged to

speak out in print their nerve fails them.

Until the industry finds its backbone, it can have few complaints if

some clients continue to screw it.


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