IPA and ISBA must tighten new-business guidelines to protect mental health
A view from Marcus Brown

IPA and ISBA must tighten new-business guidelines to protect mental health

The Great Pitch Company founder and chief executive calls on the trade bodies to act

Campaign's recent piece on the welfare of pitching agencies sparked further lively industry debate, with both clients and agencies ultimately agreeing that the responsibility lies in the hands of both. And rightly so.

Following a disciplined pitch process, which respects the welfare of the individual and the team, is a critical element of a more professional approach to business development.

As I wrote in December, this is vital – not only because the health of our people is paramount but because new business is a vital part of any agency’s success. No one would disagree.

Yet, time and again, I find myself having conversations with people who look at me as if I am a little odd and who say: "Welfare is all well and good but the reality is that pitching involves late nights and weekend working."

In response to them, I point to the findings from our recent survey, highlighting that the most effective agencies improved their processes, resourcing and planning to – among other things – restrict evening emails, avoid weekend working and so on. Small steps that can have a big positive impact on those involved in pitching.

It seems that within our beloved industry there is a desire for change but also a scepticism that it can change. For that reason, we at The Great Pitch Company are calling on the IPA and ISBA to update their best-practice new business guide Finding an Agency to include some key principles that will assist both agency and client to put the welfare of people first.

These range from simple, easy-to-make changes – such as setting deadlines for Friday afternoons rather than Monday mornings – to more root-and-branch changes, such as the client requiring agencies to confirm the pitch has taken place in accordance with certain welfare standards.

And all this needs to be done with urgency. Last month, Campaign remarked how this spring is likely to bring a flurry of new-business activity on stream as many brands look to review agency relationships and have contracts signed before 2022. 

Many agency new-business leaders are privately very worried about how to deal with the volume of pitching this year, particularly with many staff still set to work from home for the next few weeks at least.

Now I realise there needs to be more debate, and getting agreement between the IPA and ISBA takes time. But could we have something in place by 10 October, World Mental Health Day?

After all, there is a huge degree of hypocrisy when our own industry leaders champion Mental Health Week only to then subject their teams to poor pitch practices that can cause burnout and other mental-health repercussions.

If we start now – and plan properly – we won’t have to work weekends to get such an agreement in place. It can and must be done.

Marcus Brown is the founder and chief executive of The Great Pitch Company

Photo: Maskot/Getty Images