Will the guidelines to curb abuse of the pitching process, currently
being agreed and shortly to be announced by the Institute of
Practitioners in Advertising and the Incorporated Society of British
Advertisers (Campaign, last week), have any effect?
I suspect the answer is only a little and not for very long. It looks as
though these latest guidelines probably come down in favour of the
We know what agencies hate about the pitching process: they hate to have
their time wasted by clients who say they have budgets when they don’t;
they don’t like clients who trawl for the sake of it; they prefer it if
clients don’t come up with hopeless briefs like’persuade us to
advertise’; they don’t like pitching unless they have at least a 33 per
cent chance of winning and they don’t like producing or handing over
ideas unless they’re being paid for them. All this appears to be covered
by the new guidelines.
But what about the clients? What do they hate? They don’t like looking
at glowing agency credentials which do not reflect the core competencies
of the company concerned; they don’t like being sold integration (‘as
margins are tough, how about some direct marketing from the chaps on the
third floor?’); they prefer not to see the same work on more than three
different agency showreels; they don’t like being pitched to by the ‘A’
team and then being fobbed off with the ‘B’ team after they’ve appointed
them; and they are bored by agencies who say their proposition is new
and different, when there is no perceptible difference at all.
Will a client be able to turn down an agency which comes up with a
coherent case to be the fourth on the list?
How can an agency be sure that the client who says he has the money is
telling the truth? Sometimes it’s difficult to tell.
In the end, the pitching process will remain a peculiar art. It’s
certainly not a science.
The guidelines will be there to guide those of us who are constantly
involved in the process. However, unenforceable guidelines have the
habit of being, well, unenforceable.
Andrew Melsom, Agency Insights, Marlborough