Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pitch Pitch Pitch

When even the guys who make a dollar out of organising pitches say they are fatally flawed, it might be time for a change.

A recent AdNews article got me thinking again about pitches. Most agency types hate them. But an increasing number of marketers are realising that pitching, as a process is slow, ineffective and ultimately very expensive.

You may seem to be getting free submissions from creative agencies when they pitch, but you are not.

Let’s say every large agency is spending, 10% of their time and resources on pitching. They can only pay for this by charging existing clients. It’s not as though they have other income streams.

So every client they have is paying an extra 10% just to cover the cost of pitching. That’s right. You are paying your agency to chase other work. And if they win and it conflicts with your category, you may be dumped as well!

It’s nuts!

Unfortunately most of the alternatives suggested by the ‘Pitch Doctors’ seem like variations on the theme of, ‘tell me again how we would work together’. Workshops and ‘getting to know you’ sessions are becoming more popular.

Either way, the personal charm of senior agency management makes or breaks the deal. Then management steps a side and a bunch of strangers actually does the work.

Is there a better way? Yes.

An incredibly effective way to test real working relationships is to simply work together. The client chooses an agency they’ve heard good things about and briefs a single real life project. Then they get to see how the real, behind the scenes, agency works.

Do the creatives get narky when asked for changes? Is the finished art full of typos? Does the agency hire quality suppliers? Are the contact people 12 years old? Does the agency rely on a conveyer belt of freelancers?

These are questions that will actually affect the clients business. And they are questions that are impossible to answer at a pitch or its modern variation, the workshop.

When the project is over the client can give more work to the agency. Or if the reality has turned out to be less than inspiring they can try a new one.

The client will save a lot of time, a lot of money and they’ll build up a very strong knowledge of who really performs.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Crazy or what?

I did a crazy thing this month. I sent out a short survey to a number of clients and ex-clients asking for brutal honesty.

And I got it.

I deliberately targeted a few who had fired me. Most people were very complimentary. But a small number mentioned the same issue that bugged them. I was unaware of this issue and will now do everything to fix it.

This made me wonder how huge brands, particularly services, could benefit by asking, “What one thing could we do better?” Imagine what a Bank could learn if it asked this simple question. And imagine how its brand image would be improved just by the act of asking.

If this becomes a marketing fad of the future, remember you heard it here first.