Back from the dead – 10 reasons why the pitch is still with us

Earlier this year, the small village that is advertising got all over-excited about the death of the pitch.

The eulogies were led by journalists looking for copy and consultants pedaling their version of the “new improved” pitch, thenon-pitch” pitch and, my personal favourite, thelet’s not meet the agency before we invite them to pitch” pitch.

Meanwhile, at AAR we quietly went about our business. Our business being, among other things, to run pitches with the willing participation and encouragement of brands looking for agency partners, and agencies super-excited to pitch for these opportunities.

We chose not to comment in the moment (we were too busy pitching) but with the benefit of time to reflect, I thought I’d share what we know about pitching and how it’s evolved over the years.

So here are the 10 things I know – and that I know you know – about pitching:

  1. Pitching is not dead, nor old fashioned, nor inappropriate, as long as it’s run professionally and respectfully to all involved; brands and agencies alike.
  2. There are already many flavours of pitch – strategic, creative, with and without RFIs, workshop, chemistry/pitch, deep dives, fireside chats and pitch safaris. The skill comes in employing the most appropriate approach.
  3. No brand would, or should, run a media pitch without the necessary due diligence across media pricing, quality, technology capabilities and transparency.
  4. Many brands and publicly funded institutions undertake pitches as a matter of corporate governance and best practice. Such pitches are not necessarily as a result of dissatisfaction with the incumbent and, therefore, need to be managed differently.
  5. Some opportunities don’t require a pitch, such as small-scale projects and pro-bono charity opportunities. Meet some agencies, see their work and make a decision.
  6. Any old fool can run a pitch and appoint an agency. But achieving the sort of long-term relationship proven to deliver better work and better business outcomes requires a level of skill and insight from those running and participating in the pitch that’s not always evident.
  7. The strategic consultancies appear to have it right; they’ll show work done for others, their methodology and approach as the basis on which the brand has to make a decision. They don’t do all the work in the pitch and hope their agency wins so they can get paid for it.
  8. Agencies freely admit that pitching is as close as they are going to get to a legal high. It’s when they can be at their most potent and persuasive. A pitch will galvanize an agency in a manner that can’t be replicated.
  9. Pitches are essentially insurance policies – the more reassurance you want, the more involving the pitch is likely to be. And still there are no guarantees. The best-run pitches are not a guarantee of great work that will deliver great business success. And only 26% of work presented in pitches makes it into the target market’s living room.
  10. If, as an agency, you don’t want to participate in a pitch then don’t. It’s always your choice. And if you’re a CMO about to embark on a pitch, work out what it is you want from your agency, then undertake the most appropriate pitch programme that stands the best chance of delivering this.

And if you’re not sure what to do, give us a call.