Media Perspective - Consultants can prosper amid this pitching madness

Last week's annual media owner versus media agency cricket match at the Hurlingham Club, which raised around £100,000 for the Lord's Taverners charity, demonstrated that this remains an industry, underneath its competitive streak, that is capable of incredible unity and generosity.

Most of the time, though, industry players seem more intent on smashing each other's businesses for six than working constructively together.

Throw clients into the mix and the situation becomes even more bitterly contested. For instance, last week brought more apparent examples of pitch madness with our sister title Campaign Asia reporting that Reckitt Benckiser is attempting to charge media agencies $10,000 for the privilege of pitching for its business in India, leading to some agencies refusing to take part.

Closer to home, Thomas Cook seems to have scared off some agencies from its UK media pitch with a line in its RFI, under "Fees and Costs", that makes it clear that it expects "a substantial signing on fee in return for a three-year contract award". Agency sources have suggested that this could be as high as £1 million.

It seems we are moving into hitherto uncharted territory - at least in the scale of some of these demands. Which has led some media agencies to believe that the role of new-business intermediaries has become increasingly vital. Agencies have praised recent pitches run by intermediaries such as the British Gas contest, with former agency man Paul Longhurst acting as a consultant, and last year's Lloyds Banking Group pitch, which was managed by MediaSense, as examples of pitch best practice.

The presence of a consultant is not automatically a positive but the involvement of an AAR, Agency Insight or MediaSense on a pitch process should reassure agencies that this is likely to be a client that cares about media or at least wants to run a balanced pitch. As one agency business development director puts it: "I'm increasingly a believer that intermediaries are a positive force in this - it does them no favours to base a pitch solely on price as procurement can do that. And I've yet to see an intermediary-led pitch that has descended to the recent levels of farce."

Media owners such as News International (see piece opposite) are searching for a higher valuation for the content that they provide and, in my view, so they should. Agencies, which are capable of creating excellent work (Mindshare's clever and effective campaign for First Direct that recently won a Cannes Media Lion and ZenithOptimedia's O2 activity, which won the Grand Prix at the Thinkbox Awards, were both impressive), should do the same. While media shows great generosity towards charity, a little more towards its own ideas would benefit all sides in the long run.