The credentials presentation as we know it has become a thing of
the past; it has become the pitch in its own right.
It used to be that when a client sought to identify a shortlist of
appropriate agencies to pitch for its business, it did so with a minimum
The client would visit the AAR or the Incorporated Society of British
Advertisers, talk to one of a number of consultants or use their own
experiences to draw up a long list of appropriate agencies. It might
then visit those agencies to look at the work they’d done for other
relevant clients, hear about their processes and systems and discuss
their ’philosophies’ about brands and about advertising.
On the basis of that information and a little chemistry check, they’d
draw up a shortlist and brief the agencies as best they could - then the
real work would begin.
But in the past few months it appears a new element has entered the
frame with remarkable, and worrying, regularity. This is the request for
’just your first thoughts on our
market/company/business/problem/opportunity. Not too much, just ten
minutes or so.’ And normally by next week, or in one case, by
Most agencies can’t resist the temptation to respond to such a brief and
most self-respecting agencies find it impossible to respond with
superficial or off-the-cuff observations. They plunge headlong into a
frantic process designed to gather a point of view from nothing in a few
days. No brief, no budget, no client research, not even, remember, a
conversation with the client.
’Tough,’ you might say (particularly if you’re a client), ’it’s an
increasingly competitive market and this is the price of entry.’ Well, I
believe this development is doing us all a disservice and it’s time we
put a stop to it.
From an agency manager’s point of view, the new-business programme and
the necessary resource allocation are becoming more disruptive, bending
the agency out of shape and potentially threatening the quality of our
service to existing clients.
There’s also the issue of the spiralling costs of new business in an age
where our clients are applying more and more pressure on agency
Why should an agency fork out large amounts of money on an omnibus
survey or qualitative groups in order to make some interesting
observations when we barely know the nature of the opportunity or the
client? And who’s going to guarantee that this isn’t just another round
of meetings where a potential client seeks to gather free information
and insights from some over-eager and seemingly desperate agencies?
Surely as a business we should be resisting these attempts to devalue
and undermine one of the things that we do best: developing
consumer-based strategic insights.
Lastly, a point to our clients: is it really best to draw up a shortlist
on the basis of half-baked thoughts founded on spurious research?
Doesn’t chemistry, a relevant track record, general style and approach
suggest a more fruitful outcome? After all, we’re only talking about the