So you think you're good at new business?

The AAR's latest report on the new-business market and agency performance throws up some interesting findings. Martin Jones interprets the data.

Compiling the figures for the Which Agency Was Best At New Business report is one of the more challenging tasks at AAR. With various criteria for inclusion, you need to be a combination of jobsworth traffic warden ("you can't park there") and hostage negotiator ("I'll let you have the pizza but the helicopter is a no-go").

They are always good-natured discussions, with most "debate" centred on two areas. First, on global and international pictures where the rule appears to be that if your agency network wins the pitch, the London office was fundamental. If, however, you lose, it was clearly led by your office in Uzbekistan. The second area of continued conjecture is what constitutes a pitch? Again, if you win, it was a full-blown pitch process. If you lose, it was "only a chat". All that having been said, the 2010 results make interesting reading.

The fact that the total new-business market for advertising pitches was down 16 per cent in 2010 compared with the previous year is clearly reflected in these figures. In 2010, nine agencies had ten or more new-business opportunities compared with 16 agencies in 2009, and 20 in 2008.

So what is happening? Well, it is probably a combination of things.

The first is the clear effect that the recession has had on clients' pitching their business. They have other matters to occupy their days and pitches are often an expensive and time-consuming distraction. The second is that some agencies are clearly getting more selective about what they pitch for.

Already in 2011, AAR has had several agencies turning down opportunities because of workload. Historically, most agencies judged each new-business opportunity against three criteria: money, creative opportunity and "interest". Today, a fourth criteria of "available resource" is equally important. The third factor is the specific impact that the decrease in the number of COI briefs has had on the overall market. Its presence in the pitching arena was sadly missed by every new-business director on its rosters. The final issue behind the decline in opportunities is that agencies are getting better at retention. It is a vicious circle if you are a new-business director or a virtuous circle if you are a financial director, but as agencies have fewer new-business opportunities, they spend more time on their existing clients, thus decreasing the likelihood of a review.

Last year was clearly a tough year for new business and so congratulations should particularly go to Albion and Adam & Eve, which together topped a number of the key categories. Mother, which landed business including Butlins and New Look, and VCCP also did well in terms of winning accounts.

Albion, which won accounts including Visit Britain and Zoopla, had the most new-business opportunities overall, the most wins without a pitch, the most wins from any source and were joint winners of the "open pitch" category, arguably the best indication of which agencies are most popular with clients. Clearly, Albion was helped by the fact that it is a smaller agency and had fewer conflicts than some of its larger competitors. However, the agency's heritage of having been built from digital outwards is clearly resonating with clients.

Campaign's Agency of the Year, Adam & Eve, also had a stellar new-business year, converting 100 per cent of all the pitches in which it participated. These included Foster's and Genius, the bread brand. Whether it was a strategy to do fewer pitches than some other agencies is known only to James Murphy and the team, but clearly making the most of every opportunity rather than playing a "numbers" game has to be the most cost-effective way of competitively pitching.

It has often been said that winning new business without a pitch is the best way to secure it as you don't have to invest as much time, money and emotion. As in previous years, a few agencies managed to win business in this way, but with the rise of procurement and compliance, this is becoming less common. Clients often need to be able to point to an audit trail to prove due diligence in their appointment.

Interestingly, the majority of the agencies that win business without competitive pitches are "owner-managed" (Albion, Beattie McGuinness Bungay, The Brooklyn Brothers, Karmarama), so it might be worth investigating the reasons behind this.

As a reflection of the growing offering from agencies, for the first time this year we have included tables on agencies that have competed for and won business outside of their core disciplines of advertising and integrated marketing. While there are no great surprises that VCCP, which won accounts including Coors Light and Freesat, and CHI & Partners (both of which bill themselves as integrated agencies) were the most successful, the great surprise to many will be how few opportunities there were.

While nobody disputes that more agencies are providing a greater breadth of services for their existing clients, this has yet to be reflected in the world of new business. The vast majority of pitches still remain "distress purchases" with clients looking to appoint a new advertising agency to replace their existing advertising agency that is failing to deliver.

Rarely do clients take the opportunity to look at all of the disciplines at the same time. The two exceptions in 2010 being BMW (which appointed Engine) and Virgin Media (which appointed DDB UK). Even more rarely do clients allow an agency that is not a "specialist" to pitch for a discipline outside of their "traditional" area, unless already working with them.

The world of new business continues to be as complex and intriguing as ever. What is clear is that there are more and more agencies chasing fewer and fewer new-business opportunities.

What has perhaps changed over the years, however, is that most agencies are no longer prepared to go after everything that moves, but prefer to spend more time going after fewer opportunities. Whether this is a strategy or simply a post-rationalisation to there being fewer opportunities will only become apparent when the market hopefully picks up once more.

Martin Jones is a partner at AAR.

All data sourced by AAR


Rank Agency Total

1 Albion 18
2= BMB 15
2= VCCP 15
4 Bartle Bogle Hegarty 14
5 Mother 12
6= DLKW Lowe 11
6= M&C Saatchi 11
8= CHI & Partners 10
8= Grey 10
10= Adam & Eve 9
10= Karmarama 9
12 Dare (MCBD) 8
13= Fallon 7
13= JWT 7
13= Publicis 7
13= RKCR/Y&R 7
13= The Red Brick Road 7
13= Saatchi & Saatchi 7
19= 18 Feet & Rising 6
19= Leo Burnett 6
19= Quiet Storm 6

*From any source


Rank Agency Total

1= Albion 11
1= Bartle Bogle Hegarty 11
1= VCCP 11
4 BMB 10
5 M&C Saatchi 8
6= DLKW Lowe 7
6= The Red Brick Road 7
8= Adam & Eve 6
8= Grey 6
8= Mother 6
8= RKCR/Y&R 6
12= 18 Feet & Rising 5
12= Dare (MCBD) 5
12= Euro RSCG London 5
12= Fallon 5
12= CHI & Partners 5
12= Karmarama 5
12= Quiet Storm 5
19= CST 4
19= Saatchi & Saatchi 4
19= The Assembly 4

* Where the client had a choice of any agency to invite to pitch


Rank Agency % Pitches

1 Adam & Eve 100 8
2 WCRS 80 5
3= 18 Feet & Rising 75 4
3= Mother 75 8
5= M&C Saatchi 70 10
5= CHI & Partners 70 10
7 Grey 63 8
8 VCCP 62 13
9= Euro RSCG London 60 5
9= JWT 60 5
9= Karmarama 60 5
12 Albion 58 12
13 RKCR/Y&R 50 6
14 Bartle Bogle Hegarty 43 14
15= DLKW Lowe 40 10
15= Quiet Storm 40 5
17 BMB 36 11
18 The Red Brick Road 29 7
19 Dare (MCBD) 17 6
20 Saatchi & Saatchi 14 7

*Agency needs to have undertaken a minimum of five competitive pitches


Rank Agency Total

1 Albion 6
2= BMB 4
2= The Brooklyn Brothers 4
2= Karmarama 4
5= DHM 3
5= Mother 3
7= 18 Feet & Rising 2
7= Beta 2
7= Dare (MCBD) 2
7= JWT 2
7= London 2
7= Publicis 2

*Where there was no prior relationship


Rank Agency Total

1 CHI & Partners 4
2= Adam & Eve 3
2= Bartle Bogle Hegarty 3
2= DLKW Lowe 3
2= Grey 3
2= Leo Burnett 3
2= Mother 3
2= Publicis 3
2= Saatchi & Saatchi 3
2= VCCP 3

*Client's choice was from a pre-defined list of agencies with whom there
is an ongoing relationship, or where the agency has a current
relationship via other brands


Rank Agency Total

1 Albion 13
2= Mother 10
2= VCCP 10
4 Adam & Eve 9
5= BMB 8
5= CHI & Partners 8
5= M&C Saatchi 8
8 Karmarama 7
9= Bartle Bogle Hegarty 6
9= Grey 6


Rank Agency Total

1= CHI & Partners 3
1= VCCP 3
3 Mother 2
4= Adam & Eve 1
4= DCH 1
4= Dentsu 1
4= DHM 1
4= Euro RSCG London 1
4= JWT 1
4= Rapier 1


Rank Agency Total

1 VCCP 4
2 CHI & Partners 3
3= Mother 2
3= Rapier 2
5= Adam & Eve 1
5= BMB 1
5= DCH 1
5= Dentsu 1
5= DHM 1
5= Euro RSCG London 1
5= JWT 1
5= Leo Burnett 1