EDITORIAL: Time to reconsider pitching for a fee?

For most agencies, being invited to pitch for a multi-million-pound account is cause for celebration followed by hard graft.

For most agencies, being invited to pitch for a multi-million-pound account is cause for celebration followed by hard graft.

Indeed, reviews of any size are generally approached by agencies with a fair degree of sweat and a commitment to perform at their best.

Sadly, not all clients with a covetable ad budget approach a review of their creative or media business with quite the same spirit. Of course, no client should approach a pitch without being certain of why they're reviewing their business and what they're looking for. But it seems some clients aren't sure they can even appoint an agency in the first place.

It's hardly surprising that the film distributor UIP caused something of a furore among media agencies last week by cancelling its UK media review and handing the business to the Media Edge globally. Similarly, Hackett recently got agencies' blood boiling by dragging them through virtually an entire creative pitch process only to call the whole thing off when its international parent, Richemont, apparently put the blocks on the decision.

It's one of the cruellest blows an advertiser can strike an agency and one which tarnishes the entire client community by association. The sheer waste of the time, energy and passion required for a pitch is not only debilitating, it's also expensive. An abandoned pitch is more than frustrating, it can be a serious blow to an agency that has devoted effort and money to a review that suddenly evaporates.

In the case of both UIP and Hackett, local pitches were over-ruled by international diktats and as more advertising decisions are taken on an international level, it's an issue that's unlikely to go away.

There's nothing new about local agency relationships being trampled under international realignments, and most agencies with a network will benefit from such decisions at some stage. But when local pitches are abandoned by a diktat from an international marketing function, it's surely time to revisit the old payment-for-pitches chestnut.

Or agencies could be reduced to demanding written confirmation that the marketer that is holding the pitch is also the one holding the purse strings


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