Two-thirds (67%) of major brands do not feel confident running a fully remote pitch process, despite half (52%) saying that this is a good time to review the set-up of their agency rosters.
Those are the findings of a survey by Creativebrief involving 50 top brands in the UK, including Centrica, Ikea, John Lewis & Partners and Virgin.
Brands including Britvic, Eve Sleep, Guinness and McClaren all pointed to the importance of holding a chemistry meeting in person.
Mark Evans, managing director of marketing at Direct Line Group, said: "It’s a bit arrogant to assume that it would be easy to get a good outcome with no in-person chemistry whatsoever.
"It might be a necessity to do so, but the challenge to select agency partners that grow into successful long-term partners shouldn’t be underestimated. Online dating is one thing, but agreeing to get married online is another."
However, Creativebrief said that for some brands there is an attitude of "needs must". It explained: "A hybrid featuring some element of face to face, but the remainder done via technology, could become the new pitch process."
When it comes to whether this is a good time to call a pitch, Creativebrief found that while many brands won’t be calling a review just yet, many are using this time to review the structure of their agency rosters and their strategic set-up.
However, the consultancy believes that there will be a "notably solid" new-business market over the next six to 12 months.
Creativebrief also quizzed marketers on whether they would consider appointing an agency for a project instead of running a pitch, with the intention of long-term appointment in future, to which 76% agreed.
The report said: "The overall observation was that working together on something real in a challenging climate would do more to test the potential for a long-term strategic partnership than a drawn-out remote agency pitch process."
Just over 80% of respondents said that they are keen to create a more efficient way of pitching – something that has come about as the result of remote working during the lockdown.
Henry Chilcott, group marketing director at McLaren, pointed to a "greater sense of empathy for the challenges businesses face (both client and agency)". He added that cashflow should be front and centre, meaning more reasonable payment terms that reflect the scale of a business a client is working with.
Scott Somerville, head of advertising, PR and campaigns at E.ON, which is in the midst of a review, added that he will look to cut out unnecessary meetings.