‘We’ll believe it when we see it’ seems to be the universal reaction to
last week’s Campaign story about the Institute of Practitioners in
Advertising and the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers’
proposed new guidelines on pitching.
It is difficult to disagree with the logic behind the idea that pitch-
lists be limited to only three agencies, and that clients be asked to
make a contribution to agencies’ pitch expenses. It is even more
sensible that agencies, who often find themselves spending well over six
figures each year on pitches, plough that money into something more
useful, such as training. But is it really going to happen?
Neither the IPA nor ISBA has the power to enforce the new guidelines,
but they intend to ‘exert heavy pressure on their members to abide by
them’. In the next breath, it was said that neither party would be
recommending a scale of pitch fees, because they know that the sums
would be forced down through ‘competitive activity’.
And therein lies the problem. Clients do abuse the pitch process. That’s
not just Campaign whingeing on behalf of the ad industry again - it’s
the admission of John Hooper, ISBA’s new(ish) director general, and
clearly a man with whom the IPA and the rest of the agency world can do
business. There are too many pitches and there are usually too many
agencies on each pitch (there’s a bank currently out and about that had
20 on its list).
Clients do use pitches to refresh/frighten (pick your own verb) their
incumbent agency, and they do nick ideas on anything from creative work
to paying the incumbent less. But it was ever thus. And, we predict,
perhaps a tad cynically, that it will always be so.
Not because the new agreement won’t have any impact. For a while it will
- among enlightened clients. But much as we would wish otherwise, we
fear the current abuses will continue as long as agencies persist with a
desperate ‘we’ll take anyone’ approach to new business.