When it comes to pitches, agencies aren't asking for love - they want honesty
A view from Ian Darby

When it comes to pitches, agencies aren't asking for love - they want honesty

Peter Bogdanovich tells a story, recently cited in The New Yorker, about receiving a phone call from Cary Grant. The actor chastises his protégé for banging on about his relationship with Cybill Shepherd.

"Will you for Christ’s sake stop telling people you’re happy, and stop telling them you’re in love?" Grant says. "Why, Cary?" "Because they’re not happy and they’re not in love." "I thought that all the world loves a lover." "No. Don’t you believe it."

Brands should take note. Ditch the sugar-coated, John Lewis-inspired stuff for a more hard-bitten, direct approach. Tell it like it is and people might identify that bit more with a product.

The same goes for new-business pitches. I recently spoke to an agency chief who called for an end to the lovey-dovey stuff at the end of pitches. The flirtation of keeping agencies hanging on, only to tell them that, despite being the favourite, they’re being dumped for a better model. The gist of his point is: we don’t want to be told that we’re loved, we just want to be told "yes" or "no" in a cold, calculated, informative e-mail.

One famously direct dealer – in pitches at least – is the marketing team at Santander, headed by the director of brand and communications, Keith Moor. This is the advertiser that, in 2008, awarded its media business based, at least in part, on the results of an online auction. Few agencies complained and the ones that did chose not to take part.

This time around, agencies have been warned to prepare for the bank’s "demanding working style". The majority of agencies have no problem with this – it’s best to know from the start that it isn’t about sending flowers and collecting awards.

Despite pitching at regular intervals, Santander has now worked with Carat for eight years, so can’t be accused of tarting its business around town willy-nilly. With the current media pitch frenzy, this open approach is to be welcomed. After all, no matter what they might say, very few agencies are truly in love with their clients.