The number of pitches run has dropped to an all-time low. But now, Jim Davies discovers, agencies rely on imaginative gimmicks and promoting special relations to win business

The number of pitches run has dropped to an all-time low. But now, Jim

Davies discovers, agencies rely on imaginative gimmicks and promoting

special relations to win business

Pitching for new business is like coming on to someone you fancy. The

potential rewards are great, but you’ve always got to steel yourself for

possible rejection. Matters are complicated by the fact that you’re

rarely the only suitor and often you’ll find yourself up against

agencies that are bigger, know all the best chat-up lines and are -

let’s be brutal - just a lot more attractive than you. But the

traditional creative pitch is by no means the only way of picking up

accounts; in fact, statistics from the New Business Monitor, which uses

the trade press as its database, show that the number of competitive

pitches has dropped significantly over the past five years (see ‘Where

have all the pitches gone?’, Campaign, 31 May). These days accounts can

be won and lost for a multitude of reasons practical, dramatic or

mundane; ranging from global realignments and corporate takeovers to

personal allegiances and new marketing directors.

The wacky pitch

The pitch has by no means died. But a Nobo board and a few magic-markers

will no longer suffice. Even for a media-only pitch like CIA

Medianetwork’s for the pounds 20.5 million Lloyds TSB media business,

you really have to pull out all the stops. ‘Two years ago we’d probably

have used acetates,’ Mike Anderson, new-business director of CIA, says.

‘Today, that’s just not good enough.’ Although CIA had originally won

the TSB business five years earlier, the agency had changed beyond

recognition. ‘We are a radically different proposition now,’ Anderson

adds. The objective of the hour-and-a-half-long pitch was to demonstrate

the broad range of skills the new-look CIA could offer.

CIA felt it needed a theme, something the client could absorb and

remember easily after it had left. After much head-scratching, it struck

upon jam. It used a selection of miniature pots of the sticky stuff to

represent the various services on offer. Hence, planning jam, new-media

jam and buying jam and so on. After the individual presentations, each

member of the CIA team handed the relevant pot of jam to the client. CIA

also ran film of the prospective staff in the kitchen combining their

talents to make jam. As if this wasn’t enough, CIA also produced a one-

off, tailor-made credentials CD-Rom to highlight the company’s new-media

strengths and ability to perform at breakneck speed. Anderson admits the

whole breathtaking exercise cost several thousand pounds but, of course,

in the end it was worth it. ‘It was a great experience and we had a lot

of fun,’ Anderson says. ‘But it makes you think, just what do you have

to do to win a pitch?’

The New Marketing Director

When a client appoints a new marketing director, the incumbent agency

breaks into a cold sweat. He or she will usually want to make a mark

quickly and decisively, and the most effective way of doing so is to

wipe the slate; to sack the old agency and bring in fresh blood. ‘Fresh

people bring fresh ideas,’ Damien Horner, business development director

at Mustoe Merriman Herring Levy, explains. ‘They also bring new

prejudices, alternative experiences and different points of view that

regularly lead to a change in agency. In order to make the impact they

desire, newly appointed marketing directors seek radical solutions and

tend to be braver when it comes to approving work.’

Saatchi and Saatchi lost the pounds 9 million New Zealand Tourist Board

account to Mustoes in January 1996, when Linda Fleet took over as

marketing director. She was determined to move the account on and

Mustoes’ slant on travel advertising impressed her. ‘Let’s be real,’

Fleet says, ‘we’re an egotistical bunch who prefer to have our

personally appointed suppliers and staff working towards the realisation

of our personally developed strategies and visions. We also bring

preconceived ideas and views about what works best for us, our

organisations and our products.’

‘We wanted to get away from beaches and Baywatch wannabes,’ Horner says.

‘How many cobalt-blue seas and golden sunsets can the consumer take?’

Fleet asks. ‘Our goal was to find a small, highly creative agency that

could deliver a campaign that would look and sound like no other holiday


The resulting campaign uses a jamboree of images showing Britain at its

worst - traffic jams, horror stories on the news - and the endline ‘get

away from it all as far as you possibly can’. ‘We were making a strength

out of what is usually seen as the down side of going to New Zealand -

that it’s so far away,’ Horner says. And how did Mustoes persuade Fleet

it was the right agency for the tourist board? Easy. They sent her a


The Global Realignment

In a bid to achieve global consistency, many multinational corporations

move their brands into roster agencies. Although it is often perceived

that winning an account through this method is a case of money for old

rope, Chris Rendel, chief executive of Foote Cone Belding, denies that

this is so. ‘Being on a client’s international roster sometimes is an

advantage, but no client is going to give their business to an agency

that isn’t very good just because it is on the international roster. We

pitched for both the S. C. Johnson and Kimberly-Clark tissues accounts -

which we won earlier this year - although we were on both rosters.

Clients hate having to move their business. The move has got to be in

everyone’s interest to make it worthwhile,’ he explains.

Rendel adds: ‘There are very few cases where there are major worldwide

account wins by one roster agency. The only recent ones I can think of

are when Ogilvy and Mather won the global IBM account. About 18 months

ago, we lost the Surf business to another agency [Ammirati Puris Lintas]

which is part of the Lever Brothers club.’

FCB UK got a pounds 10 million billings boost in January this year, when

S. C. Johnson decided to align almost all of its global account within

the network. The US company - best known for Mr Muscle and Pledge - cut

its links with 28 agencies in favour of FCB. The capture of the

worldwide Johnson business, worth between pounds 300 and pounds 350

million, reversed the network’s fortunes. It lost out on a recent global

consolidation when Colgate-Palmolive went to Young and Rubicam. In a

message to staff, Bruce Mason, FCB’s worldwide chairman, said Colgate’s

departure had cleared the way for Johnson’s consolidation. The incoming

business would, he claimed, be twice as large as the Colgate loss.

Client Acquisitions

In March, Whitbread bought Labatt Brewing UK, prompting a review of

creative and media arrangements on Labatt and Rolling Rock. The accounts

moved temporarily to Walsh Trott Chick Smith, but have now settled at

Lowe Howard-Spink and Bartle Bogle Hegarty respectively. BBH was handed

the pounds 3 million Rolling Rock account without a pitch on the

strength of its work for other Whitbread brands, notably Boddingtons and

Murphy’s. Favoured agencies tend to benefit in the aftermath of client

acquisitions, and if BBH can reproduce work to the standard of its

‘cream of Manchester’ campaign for Boddingtons, Whitbread’s faith will

have been vindicated.

Competing Accounts

When Anheuser-Busch, the world’s largest brewer comes knocking on your

door bearing a pounds 4 million account, you don’t say no - even if it

means forsaking one of your most highly regarded creative accounts as

part of the bargain. BMP DDB said a reluctant goodbye to John Smith’s

and its successful Jack Dee ‘widget’ campaign when it won the Budweiser

account in 1995. BMP’s loss was GGT’s gain - the agency picked up the

account without a pitch thanks to its close ties with the marketing

director, John Nicolson, who worked with it on the Holsten Pils Denis

Leary campaign. ‘One of the major factors leading to winning the account

was that GGT had produced such startling work for Holsten Pils. We’d

proved that we were comfortable working on ‘big celebrity’ campaigns,’

Grant Duncan, managing director of GGT, says.


In advertising, as in any other kind of business, it ain’t what you do,

it’s who you know. M&C Saatchi’s phenomenal new-business record and

rapid rise up the agency tables says far more about Lord Saatchi’s

special relationships - built up over 25 years with key clients at

Saatchi and Saatchi - than the young agency’s track record.

In May of this year, M&C Saatchi won back its place on the Mars agency

roster with a brief to relaunch the pounds 9.6 million-billing Whiskas

catfood. At the time, Michael Jenkins, external relations manager for

the Mars subsidiary, Pedigree Petfoods, commented: ‘Our company has

enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with Maurice and we believe his

experience and knowledge will be beneficial to our business.’ M&C

Saatchi had also landed the Silk Cut business. Peter Wilson, Gallaher’s

chairman, revealed at the time: ‘As most of the key people who have

managed our advertising are moving to the new agency, we have concluded

that we too must move.’ Don’t scoff the next time someone tells you how

important contacts are.

Category Expertise

It took only three months for Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper to scoop the pounds

6 million Bass accounts for Hooper’s Hooch and Grolsch after the agency

resigned its Guinness business, following the brewer’s decision to hand

over the agency’s pounds 5 million Kilkenny business to Publicis. At the

time of the resignation, Euro RSCG was confident that it wouldn’t be

long before it found a replacement beer client, although it denies that

it had been talking to prospective clients prior to dismissing Guinness.

According to Mark Wnek, the executive creative director of Euro RSCG:

‘Resigning a client is difficult. You don’t realise how letting a client

go is so intrinsically against everything you believe in.’

Wnek adds: ‘The downside of the resignation was obvious, so we had to

accentuate the positives. Guinness and I had a long history, I had

worked with it since 1984 and later on Heineken at Lowes. Consequently,

we had a wealth of experience in the alcohol sector and the decision

left us free to enter into discussions with prospects in this area who

had shown an interest in us.

‘Also, the likelihood of a major brewing client finding a top agency to

handle its account without any conflicts is pretty rare.’


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