Over the past four years I’ve attended more than 80 pitches,
witnessing London’s finest agencies at their best. So I’ve made more
calls to winners and losers, imparting good or bad news, than probably
This experience got me thinking about the basic mistakes agencies make,
which result in the call no agency chief wants to take. Below is a list
of my top-ten tips for agencies that want to increase their pitching
1. Ask intelligent, searching questions before the pitch which allow you
to add something fresh to the client’s brief. Winning begins from the
initial contact, not when the selection panel arrives in reception.
2. Ensure that the day-to-day team attends the presentation and, more
importantly, has a role. Too often the team we may be working with sits
in silent awe while the client is subjected to 60 minutes of the
3. Ensure there is a thread of steel running from the strategy through
to the creative idea. In my experience not having one is the single
greatest contributor to failure.
4. Don’t offer attractive added-value ideas in the build up which then
fail to materialise when the creative work is revealed.
5. A good planner provides robust signposting towards the creative
A great planner brings consumer insights delivered with an air of
If this careful stage management works it creates an atmosphere of
anticipation and agreement (the client thinks the agency is making the
connection between the brief and the creative solution). All of which
can be rudely shattered when the creative director rises to articulate
his vision and promptly goes off at a tangent.
6. Don’t avoid tricky exam questions set in the brief. Views on
evaluation techniques are always requested, but one agency in four
ignores the request.
7. Don’t be afraid to set quantified objectives for the advertising,
even if these are absent from the client brief. And don’t be afraid to
clearly state what the advertising can and can’t achieve in relation to
8. Avoid traditional cliches. Everyone makes a joke about media’s ’five
minute slot’ - it was never particularly funny and doesn’t improve with
9. Some people are natural presenters, some are not. Think about this in
your presentation format. A mix of good and bad presenters can leave a
confused impression of an agency and its abilities.
10. Q&As at the end of the formal presentation can be critical. Avoid
the temptation to interrupt the client while he or she is talking. Don’t
answer a question before it has been properly put and answer succinctly
- it’s not an opportunity to make another speech.
These basic mistakes are all the more frustrating since standards have
risen. Presentations on PowerPoint, the use of the latest technology, a
more integrated solution and precision targeting tools have all added
significantly to presentation quality.
Peter Buchanan is director of marketing communications at the COI.