Managing Marketing: The Agency View Of Pitching And Procurement

Managing Marketing is a podcast hosted by TrinityP3 Founder and Global CEO, Darren Woolley. Each podcast is a conversation with a thought-leader, professional or practitioner of marketing and communications on the issues, insights and opportunities in the marketing management category. Ideal for marketers, advertisers, media and commercial communications professionals.

Anita Zanesco returns to TrinityP3 as a Business Manager following two years of working on the agency side in new business. The experience reminded her of the many challenges and issues agencies face in pitching and had her reflect on the invaluable role pitch consultancy plays when managed with the client’s and the agencies’ best interests. She shares her experiences and observation and talks candidly about the areas where all parties in the pitch process can improve from agency to advertiser and procurement.

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Transcription:

Darren:

Welcome to Managing Marketing, a weekly podcast where we discuss the issues and opportunities facing marketing, media, and advertising, with industry thought leaders and practitioners.

Today, I’m sitting down with Anita Zanesco, who’s returned to TrinityP3 as a Business Director. Welcome back, Anita.

Anita:

Thank you, Darren.

Darren:

Well, I say welcome back because you went off for two years to lead the new business at one of the agencies for Australia and New Zealand, isn’t that right?

Anita:

I did, I went to Havas for two fantastic years. Absolutely, loved my time there, but certainly, in terms of timing, I couldn’t have really got it worse because I sort of joined and I think three weeks later, we went into lockdown, which isn’t great for new business.

Darren:

Well, I was going to say great moments in poor timing.

Anita:

Great moments in poor timing, yes.

Darren:

It really was fundamentally disruptive, wasn’t it? To all aspects of business, but I’d really be interested in how, from your perspective, because going into that job, you probably had some plans.

Anita:

Absolutely, yeah.

Darren:

How disruptive was it to those plans and what were they?

Anita:

It was really disruptive in the first, I would say, the first three to four months. You’re dealing with a situation where CEOs and HR directors, they’ve never been in a situation like this before. And when it became more than just sort of a flu-like virus that would soon go away and it became apparent that it was here to stay, I think for those at least the first three to four months, complete attention was really on people.

It was on how the agency was going to survive, how they were going to look after their people. I certainly know at Havas it was very people-focused: making sure everyone was okay, making sure everyone was set up to work from home because before we knew it, we were all at home at our kitchen tables or wherever you could find space.

And just really, they were really focused on the health and welfare of their people, and of course, of their clients. And in the case of … so I worked with all the Havas agencies, but you look at an agency like Host/Havas, and New Zealand was one of their biggest clients.

So, there were agencies in the industry who were actually probably doing better during the pandemic because their client portfolios were supermarkets and FMCG and toilet paper, God forbid. Other agencies had clients in the tourism sector, airlines and so forth …

Darren:

They were just hemorrhaging, weren’t they?

Anita:

Yeah. They’ve started the year looking at the year ahead and having forecasts and targets to hit. And then all of a sudden, that rug is just pulled out from under your feet.

So, yeah, the challenges certainly form a new business perspective, I mean there was a lot of sort of planning going on in that three or four months because there was no new business around because clients had also bunkered down to look after their people and to work out how they were going to survive this.

Darren:

Yeah, I know here, we had a week where I think we had six tenders pitches going on, and four of them went on hold indefinitely. Two said we’re going to storm ahead and we have to quickly reinvent the whole process, so it could be done online by Zoom and that type of thing.

It’s a really interesting point because we’ve heard a lot from agencies about that shift of focus of just helping their clients, but it would be very hard to continue that with people you’re trying to build relationships with.

Anita:

Oh, totally. We were fortunate that we weren’t in the middle of a pitch. We’d finished a massive pitch almost right before COVID began. But yes, it’s fine for clients you know, but for new clients to try and help them through it, would’ve been a very difficult task indeed. And I’m-

Darren:

Well, it could be a little creepy, couldn’t it? Because someone that’s sort of trying to get your attention is suddenly going, “Can I help you?”

Anita:

No, it’s a bit of ambulance chasing and seriously, for that three or four months, there wasn’t any outreach either. New people had other priorities, and sending them sort of emails, unsolicited emails from almost cold calling is just not the right thing to do.

Darren:

And after that initial lockdown, suddenly, things bounced back. Because I remember late 2020, suddenly everyone was saying about how there were so many pitches and things happening. It was almost like this tension had built up during the lockdown that suddenly got released as people started to think it was opening up again.

Anita:

Yeah, I remember sitting in one management meeting in the first week of July and it was game on, we were all back in the office. It was almost like it was over, and just the momentum just all built up so quickly.

And then of course, the second half of the year didn’t really pan out as well as expected either because it wasn’t all over. And we were sort of, we just had a little bit of a reprieve to go back in. But even in that period, because a lot of clients weren’t back in their buildings, there was still a lot of virtual activity taking place.

And I think that’s where agencies had to adapt from a pitching point of view and some agencies did better than others in terms of how they came across, because chemistry, as you know, is massive in pitching.

And when you’re not face-to-face, trying to build that chemistry between faces on a screen is not as easy as it kind of looks. So, there are still things to be learned during that sort of second half of 2020 that we then built on 2021.

Darren:

Now, as a new business director, trying to pull teams together for pitches, how much harder is it when most people are working from home?

Anita:

I was very lucky in that the three CEOs across the three agencies I’ve worked with were exceptionally strong and they did a lot of pulling of the teams together. And I think where agencies … and I’ve sort of seen this at Havas and I’ve even seen it now where agencies are becoming smarter when it comes to pitching, is having that pitch team that already has the chemistry frequently being the sort of first into pitch in terms of chemistry meetings and so forth.

So, I think it came down to leadership and certainly, my experience in my role in new business was a very positive one at Havas. And it was the CEOs that drove its leadership from the top, and it’s like they pulled their teams together.

I think as the pitch process continues, actually getting work from people and actually being able to give feedback is notoriously difficult when you’re doing it virtually. It’s so much easier in a room where you are all looking at work on a boardroom table and you can shuffle things around. When you’re trying to actually do that virtually, it’s just not the same. We’re a people business.

Darren:

And also, in most cases, the pitch is quite an artificial environment. Because when you’re working with clients, there are opportunities for iterating and getting feedback and that gives you some certainty.

One of the things that I’m always aware of, particularly when people are running sort of speculative creative pitches is that the whole agency team is in a situation of second-guessing the client, aren’t they?

Anita:

Yeah, they certainly are. And I think that you see that even more with client-run pitches or procurement-led pitches where you don’t have a consultant that can actually help sort of feed that information through.

So, yes, it can be artificial. And I think our challenge as consultants and certainly client challenges are trying to make the pitch process as less artificial as possible. And there are many ways you can do that. There is no set process for running a pitch and it’s up to us to find the most effective process to do that.

I’m running a pitch at the moment and we did away with a strategy workshop because actually, that was going to be a waste of half a day, and instead, we’ve put two tissue meetings because, at the end of the day, the client is very, very focused on creativity.

So, it’s adapting and changing, and I certainly don’t believe that even a creative shootout at the end is necessarily the best answer in all cases

Darren:

You said before that the leaders of the agency were pulling people together, but it was hard to get that feedback around the team. I’m just wondering was there any sort of secret source or way of making that happen?

Anita:

Of getting feedback?

Darren:

Yeah, of getting a team working a lot more collaboratively and getting that feedback when you’re remote?

Anita:

Well, the secret source was actually every opportunity to meet face-to-face. So, whether that’s a walk along the coastal path or meeting in someone’s backyard, if permitted, like I think that was honestly there’s no … I don’t think there’s any solution that can overcome the benefits of a face-to-face meeting.

And I think the secret source is probably also massive respect for the leadership team and for the agency that you work for. And I’m sure other agencies were in different scenarios where people weren’t as committed, but certainly, in my experience at Havas, they’re pretty committed: committed teams, committed people, a lot of respect for their leaders, and they weren’t going to let anyone down.

Darren:

You also said there’s no set pitch, but did you find that a lot of say, client-run pitches had the same format or formula? Is there sort of a default pitch method?

Anita:

There is definitely a default pitch method, yep. Creds are still part of some pitches. I’m not a fan of the creds document. I think having sat in an agency for two years and seeing the amount of time that goes into putting a credentials document together, it’s not only the content but then, it’s the 50 hours of design that goes into producing this beautiful-looking thing, whether it’s sent electronically or in hard copy.

I think you can’t look at a credentials document in place of a chemistry meeting. A chemistry meeting is absolutely key. So, a lot of the set process is credentials document maybe, but definitely a chemistry meeting for at least an hour often giving the agency the chance to present short creds, and then open it up for discussion.

And then clients normally shortlist, to three or four agencies. I’ve seen what I think is quite a sort of disrespectful behaviour recently where clients are taking five agencies all the way through to a final creative shootout. And I think that’s slightly disrespectful for the amount of work that involves from an agency point of view.

And then running a strategy workshop that follows a brief and maybe having a tissue meeting and then a creative shootout, they’re the stages. And there’s obviously a financial component in there as well.

Darren:

And are clients inclined to run the financial at the end or do they run it during the process or …?

Anita:

It does tend to run simultaneously towards the end of the process. And then yeah, they’re sort of simultaneously looking at the financials, procurement and looking at the financials at the same time that an agency is presenting creative.

And then I think where it becomes slightly problematic is when a pitch could be procurement or client-led and the financials start to dictate the decision rather than actually any kind of negotiation. And I did see this a couple of times where an agency would be told that they were too expensive, but there was no discussion had as to why they could be too expensive.

It could have been that they’d over-scoped, it could have been that they weren’t actually given a-

Darren:

Just cut the price.

Anita:

Chance. It was just like, “We didn’t choose you because you were too expensive.” And I found that really infuriating because that’s a conversation to be heard if you’ve got an agency that you’d prefer. So, then you have to sort of say, well, was that just sort of a bit of a cop-out because there were other reasons.

Darren:

And were there many procurement-run pitches that were literally, “We want to send you an RFP to fill in” or did most of them run sort of more like the client-run pitch?

Anita:

No, what I found with the procurement-led pitches is the Hefty RFP would come alongside the standard pitch process. So, it would be just extra work.

So, you would have your standard pitch process running of chemistry, strategy, tissue, and creative. In the case of creative agencies, obviously, media agency is slightly different. But that RFP was done in tandem.

Darren:

So, was extra work?

Anita:

Totally. A lot of extra work. The big Excel documents with lots of tabs on risk and compliance and HR policies and DE&I, and just sitting there, I questioned how much of it was read and how much of it would influence a decision on choosing an agency.

Darren:

So, most of it was compliance?

Anita:

Most of it was compliance and numbers.

Darren:

And was it ever consistent or was every … like could you pre-prepare a response and just go, “Well, here it is” or …?

Anita:

Well, we had a template, yes, and there was a place on the server where all our responses were kept. So, generally, you could actually pull in, but it always had to be tailored. I never had a situation where I could take a block of copy and just chuck it in and be satisfied that that was going to answer the question. They were always slightly different. But yeah, agencies are … you get quicker and quicker at doing them, but I still question-

Darren:

The value.

Anita:

The value, and what impact that’s going to make on choosing the right partner, I don’t know.

Darren:

Well, look, most compliance is all about risk mitigation. They’re just looking for ensuring that anyone they choose is not going to end up costing them money through screwing up, let’s say. But it is getting bigger and bigger. I mean, the issues that have to be covered, there’s modern slavery, there’s environmental, there’s DE&I — so many issues that have to be covered.

Anita:

Yeah, and to be honest, I mean, I was, again, very fortunate that I was with Havas because we had all those policies as the as part of the group. But having actually worked on all these RFPs, you can also make it up. You can. It’s quite easy to write a one-page environmental policy to attach if you had to, if you didn’t already it in place.

Darren:

I think you probably google it, couldn’t you?

Anita:

Sure, you could. Probably take it straight off the net. I know.

Darren:

I do remember a conversation with a CEO that showed me their 48-page environment policy out of head office. And I said, “How much have you implemented?” And they went quiet. Because that’s the other thing, isn’t it? There’s a big difference between a policy and actual behaviour.

Anita:

Yeah, totally. And again, I would say like even the best environmental policy, most companies now are trying to be more environmental and they’ve got recycling bins and whatever else they can do internally. Again, I would question how much of it is relevant to an advertiser appointing an agency.

Because most agencies, they’re all doing about the same thing. I’m yet to see an agency that’s not trying to be more environmentally friendly, more sustainable. Everyone’s got a fantastic employee handbook these days. People and culture is becoming an absolutely key role. We’ve seen the growth of head of ‘people and culture’ roles go through the roof.

Darren:

Yeah. It’s sort of sad in a way that if it was more important if there were actual commercial consequences of not doing something in those areas. But I guess what you’re saying is because do they really care? Does anyone even look at Excel?

Anita:

I think that’s what worries me, who’s looking at them. No one’s ever come back and asked. In the two years, I was there not once has anyone questioned anything that was in the RFP or asked for more information?

Darren:

So, it’s literally like a box-ticking exercise feels.

Anita:

That’s what it feels like. Yes, you would have to sit here across the table from a procurement specialist or someone who actually issues them.

Darren:

And look, they would readily acknowledge that it’s important to be able to say-

Anita:

From their point of view.

Darren:

“We’ve looked at all this,” but perhaps, they could make it easier and just literally have a box for you to tick: “Do you have one of these, these, these, these, these and these?” Rather than actually have to explain what it is.

Anita:

Yeah, and then attach them all, yeah.

Darren:

Okay. What about consultant-run pitches because not all consultants are the same, are they?

Anita:

No.

Darren:

You know, there’s all sorts of consultants and they’re not that common, are they? I mean, people are inclined to think that pitch consultants are running the world, but in actual fact, what percentage of pitches do you think during the two years were consultant-led?

Anita:

I would say 15%, 20% maybe.

Darren:

Yeah, that’d be about right.

Anita:

Yeah. So, yeah, consultants … I mean, I think there’s always just kind of a bit of a reassurance when a consultant’s running a pitch.

Darren:

For the agency.

Anita:

For the agency, yeah. From the agency’s point of view, it was always, you kind of know what you’re getting. You always feel like you’ve got someone on your side when a consultant’s running a pitch that you can ask questions, you can check-in. There’s just that access and I think there’s also a reassurance that the process is going to be well-run and fair.

And I think the other real positive with a consultant-run pitch is if you are shortlisted for chemistry, in most cases, you know that you’ve already been vetted — if that’s the right word to use; that you’ve already kind of … the consultant’s obviously aligned with the client and there’s hopefully, a client brief on what they’re looking for and you’ve been selected because you’re actually already meeting that brief. And then it comes down to your chemistry with the client.

Darren:

You just said “well-run” and “fair.” I’m just wondering from an agency’s perspective, what are the sorts of criteria of a well-run and fair pitch?

Anita:

I think from an agency perspective, a well-run and fair pitch is a pitch where the process is clear. I think it’s where there is a method of shortlisting that feels fair, for want of a better word.

Darren:

Transparent.

Anita:

Transparent. I think where there’s feedback, where feedback is clear and understood. I think it’s also feeling like there’s a very clear understanding of the outcome that the client wants and what the client is looking for and that that is communicated to the agencies because I think that’s really important.

If a client is after a cheaper agency, that needs to be made clear upfront. If a client is after creative work, that needs to be clear upfront. And it’s really interesting a pitch recently, there was actually a session where agencies just sat down with the client to understand exactly what the client meant in terms of their requirements.

So, they were crystal clear as to what that client was looking for so that they could then actually go through the process with an end goal in mind. And I think you get that. And it depends on the client. If a client’s going to run their own pitch, you might occasionally get that, but it just depends on how much experience they’ve had.

There are some clients that have never run a pitch before. So, to actually embark on that, which is sort of probably a hundred hours of that client’s time that they definitely don’t have is quite an undertaking.

So, I think in terms of being fair and sort of transparent and so forth, a consultant-run pitch, you kind of get that reassurance and that ongoing kind of feedback and that person who is sort of leading everyone through the process to get to a really good outcome for the client.

Darren:

And what about feedback? How good are clients and procurement and consultants at providing feedback to agencies, particularly when they’ve been unsuccessful?

Anita:

Look, I think it depends. It totally depends on the client. You get some clients that are very, very respectful and they understand how much time and effort, energy, and money goes into a pitch. And they will come in personally and give feedback to an agency, especially if it’s at the end of the process.

Darren:

That’s great.

Anita:

And they will meet with the agency to give them feedback in person because they feel that is the least they can do given they have basically had a lot of free strategy and a lot of free ideas throughout the length of that process. But it really comes down to the client.

And then you get clients that just get too busy and the pitch finishes, and they’re doing other things. So, yeah, it’s how long’s a piece of string.

I think consultants — look, I can only speak from my personal experience while at Havas and actually working with TrinityP3. TrinityP3 are amazing at feedback, and I think because most of us have actually worked agency side.

So, we actually understand what it’s like to be on the other side, and you want to know. And I think what I like about the feedback you get from consultants who have been on the other side, is it’s constructive criticism. It’s the good, the bad and the ugly, and you hear it all, what and all, because you know that’s the only way an agency is actually going to improve and make a difference next time. There’s no point holding back.

And I think as long as agencies understand that consultants are being constructive when they do that and that it’s not meant to be an insult, it’s just criticism that that’s the way something sort of panned out.

Darren:

Do you think — because we’re hearing a lot about agency people through the pandemic and as we’re coming out the other side, there’s lots of cases of burnout, there’s issues with mental health, there’s issues just with health, but getting the work life balance is always been difficult in the agency world.

But it has been particularly compounded by working from home. And also, we’ve seen it ourselves that there’s an increase in the number of pictures that clients and procurement are inclined to go to pitch every three years, which has meant that the number of pitches and the number of clients is increasing. Do you think that this is having an impact? Do you think pitching is contributing to this?

Anita:

Yeah, absolutely. Because pitching takes such a toll on an agency. On an agency as a whole, and then on the individuals that actually work on the pitch. There is the mental and physical stress there are working weekends, there’s working a lot of long hours for not a lot of reward other than yeah, maybe a win at the end.

And pitching can be an amazing experience for an agency. All the camaraderie and the energy that can be gained from a pitch are wonderful. But I do think clients pitching more often is contributing. And I would question why some of these three-year kinds of contractual reviews, I think it needs to be addressed. I think we’ve all read the stats that I think an agency makes a loss in their first year.

They break even in their second and they’re only making a profit in their third. And if they’ve got to then pitch again and that cycle starts again, how do they ever make money? So, I think clients just being aware of that and I would always question why would you put a piece of business up for pitch if you’re happy with your agency?

Like it’s a really simple question. I know the contract says it, but then why not just extend the contract? Why would you go through that whole pitch process if you’re happy with your agency? It actually doesn’t make any sense.

Darren:

Do you think agencies are also becoming — because of this, becoming a little bit more choosy in what they pitch for?

Anita:

Absolutely. I think agencies are getting much better at saying no, at actually having criteria by which they judge incoming pitches and having a new business strategy. So, they know the kind of business they’re after, they know the kind of clients they’re after, and they can actually look at a pitch and assess it for its cultural fit.

Like is it actually going to contribute to the culture of the agency? They can look at it from its strategic and creative potential. So, are they going to create great work for it? They can look at it from a profitability point of view: is it actually going to contribute to the profit of the agency or is it going to be a bit of a drain? They can look at all sorts of things.

And then they also have to look at their people and current client workload, pitches they’ve just been through. From a consulting point of view, I’ve had numerous agencies over the years say to me “Do you know what, we can’t do this. I’ve had my creative department work every weekend for the last six weeks, they need to rest. They need to see their families.”

So, I think there are all sorts of reasons to say no, but I think agencies are getting so much better at it. And I think the whole pitch less, win more means that when they say no to the ones that aren’t quite right, it means they can put their energies into the ones that are-

Darren:

That is a better fit.

Anita:

Totally.

Darren:

It’s interesting because you’ve made that comment about working nights and working weekends for pitches. I think some clients think that the agency’s sitting there waiting to pitch for their business. But in actual fact, apart from a new business person whose job is to bring in new business, everyone else has a full-time job looking after existing clients, don’t they?

Anita:

Totally. There’s no one with capacity. I’ve never come across anyone in an agency that is sitting there with 20 to 30% capacity, especially at a senior leadership level. And they’re the ones that have to throw themselves behind pitches.

Darren:

And the other point is that agency people don’t get paid for overtime. You get your salary. So, if you work an extra 20, 40, 60 hours on top of your base hours, that’s all just, you are investing your time for that purpose.

Anita:

But you get all the time off when you get really sick when you’re really tired, and then you pick up the latest virus.

Darren:

That’s so sad.

Anita:

I know. Yeah, no, but that is what happens.

Darren:

“Look at the sick leave I’m owed.”

Anita:

I know. So, yeah, it goes back to clients being able to respect that and it goes … yeah.

Darren:

But a lot of clients are really nervous to give that sort of information up front, aren’t they? So agencies can make that assessment. I mean, I know a lot of clients that just say … even as consultants: “Well, we should give them an indication of the size of what’s being offered here or the expectation” and it can be a real struggle for people.

Anita:

It can be a real struggle and I think clients need to come forward. Agencies need to understand the size of the prize. So, what are they actually fighting for? And that’s a life thing. If you’re going in to bat for anything in life, you kind of need to know what you’re actually fighting for at the end of it. And clients that hold that back, they’ve got to give some indication.

Darren:

I’ve been told by a number of new business people around the traps that it became very common for a client to want the agency to pitch their business. And it was only once they got into the process that they found out there was like a 50,000, hundred thousand dollars project only. And yet they’d been led to believe that this was to pitch for the business. Had that ever happened to you in your experience?

Anita:

No, but maybe it was just seen… yeah, I suppose.

Darren:

You just make sure they answer the question before …

Anita:

Well, there was a bit of that. There was a bit like, “Well, we can’t really go into this until we know what …” And I think it was probably easier for me because I did have lots of these conversations because I sort of sat across a couple of agencies at Havas, and even like two PR agencies at any point in time, I could have those conversations where I would actually say — and I’ve said it frequently to clients: I’d say, “Can you just give me an indication of what size the business is and what you’re after because I can actually put you in touch with the right agency.”

So, I think that sort of makes a bit of a difference because you’ve got a broader remit.

Darren:

So, it wasn’t all or nothing because there was an opportunity to funnel them the right way.

Anita:

No, there was an opportunity for me to actually find the right fit for any given client. And I did that frequently.

Darren:

Yeah, that’s good. So, you would’ve heard about the IPA and ISBA in the UK have launched their pitch-positive pledge where they’re asking advertisers, procurement — they call us intermediaries, we’re not consultants — to actually sign up to running pitches in a way that will be more positive in the outcome, particularly for human resources, for the agency staff and for marketers as well. You know, what do you think of that as an initiative?

Anita:

I think it’s a brilliant initiative. I think especially in the UK, I think having sort of witnessed from afar the business of Havas in London and the amount of UK, but there are a lot more pitches over there, and they do tend to pitch for everything.

I think the industry is stepping up to actually recognize the increasing cost of pitching on humans, the people doing the pitches, are really, really important. And I like the fact that they are looking at how you make pitching, like take all the positives of pitching and all the good things about it, and actually make it more efficient, less arduous to run. Just better processes that actually consider what a client is after, and what the final outcome is. And therefore, what’s the best process to get there.

And don’t just go in blindly, running a templated pitch process because that’s the way we do things. So, make it streamlined, make it agile.

Darren:

So, do you think something like that could work outside of the UK?

Anita:

Yeah, definitely. I mean, I think Australia’s an interesting market because as we covered before, pitch consultants are probably 15 to 20% max of the pitches that are run. So, I think it’s getting clients and procurement to actually buy into running more effective pitches and running them more efficiently so that there is less sort of tax on the human side of things from an agency point of view. I think it could absolutely work here.

Darren:

Yeah, that’s great. Hey, so what would you be saying to clients that are thinking about going to pitch apart from making an ad and saying “Contact us?”

Anita:

Yeah, exactly, “Call me.”

Darren:

“Call me now.”

Anita:

“Call me.”

Darren:

“1-800.”

Anita:

What would I say to them? I still, as much as part of my income is being a pitch consultant, it should be a last resort. For any client going to pitch, I would ask them to ask themselves why are they pitching. I think the reason to absolutely go-to pitch is if you don’t have an agency and you need one, and you don’t have a good awareness of the market.

And it doesn’t have to be a full-blown pitch, it can be a streamlined pitch to suit you. Or if you are in a relationship that is really dysfunctional or you’ve changed as a client and you’ve got an agency that just can’t deliver what you need. In those cases, you go, yep, run a pitch, and find a really good pitch consultant who can run you a tailored pitch to meet your needs.

Any other client who has an existing relationship, I would just say, just have a really good hard look at why you want to go-to pitch, and have a look at if you think it’s the relationship, is it one-sided? Is it only the agency that is the problem, or is it a two-sided problem? And in that case, do you need some sort of a relationship review?

Have a look at the agency team. If it’s the agency team rather than the agency that’s the issue — agencies have other people. Get a fresh team on it. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a whole new agency.

And I think if it’s creative, I would have a long, hard look at your briefing process and make sure it’s not the briefs aren’t contributing to the lack of alignment on creativity.

I think if it’s a commercial, run a commercial review, and do not pitch because of financials. If you are really happy with your agency and there are commercial issues, then run a commercial review, don’t run a pitch.

Darren:

Yeah, I’ve said this to a few people. I said pitching is like finding a new partner. So, you’ve got to accept the fact that you probably have to give up the incumbent one. And it’s the same here because we know from the data that the incumbents only got a one in four chance. I did compare that to actual marriage.

Anita:

It’s about the same, isn’t it?

Darren:

And I said to a procurement guy “If you think reviewing your marriage … are you married?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Well, how long?” “Seven years.”

“Go home to your partner and say, look, I just want to make sure that this is the best marriage that I could be having. So, I’m going to go out and date other people for three or four months, and then come back. And if you are still the best, I’m going to stick with you.”

Because I think pitching is a good way to select a new agency relationship, but it’s the worst way of actually testing the incumbent one. It’s just like a marriage, you will fail.

Anita:

Oh, it’s horrible. I think it’s just horrible, yeah.

Darren:

You will fail because every agency that’s not the incumbent has the opportunity to promise-

Anita:

Oh, they’re going to look so much better. The grass is greener.

Darren:

Oh, I promise the world.

Anita:

Their strategic process is going to look better because it’s new and it’s fresh. Their creative is going to look interesting. Their account handling their process, everything’s going to be fantastic because it’s all going to be shiny and new. And then guess what? In two or three years, it’s going to be exactly the same.

Darren:

Exactly.

Anita:

It’s just different ways of doing things. But yeah, I just think any client like really look hard. And I think the other thing to consider is the expense of onboarding a new agency. It’s huge. And you’re gonna lose a lot of time. You really want to make sure you’re doing it for all the right reasons because you are going to have to invest a lot of your own time, but a lot of the agencies to actually get them up and running as you would an agency who you’ve been with for 3, 4, 5 years, however long it’s been.

And I don’t know, if I was an incumbent agency and asked to pitch, you’d have to question whether it was actually worth it.

Darren:

Yeah, and a lot of marketers say, “Oh yeah, but they know my business better than anyone.” The trouble is that actually works against you in a pitch.

Anita:

Yeah, it does.

Darren:

Because in many ways, not knowing the reality means that you can promise the world.

Anita:

The world.

Darren:

Anita, time’s got away from us. It’s been fantastic sitting down and having this conversation. Thank you so much.

Anita:

Thank you very much for having me.

Darren:

Just one last question before we go: have you ever had a client that you’ve had to pull out of the pitch during the process?