17 Jan 2022
Nothing beats the feeling of face-to-face pitches being back in the diary.
It’s been a long 18 months since we were all sitting round one table with senior marketers and agency folk and, at AAR, we’ve missed it.
But there are definitely some parts of lockdown pitching we don’t want to lose. Some things we were forced to adopt have actually improved the experience for all parties.
We expect the future of AAR selection processes to include some combination of virtual and IRL, and so we enter into this weird and wonderful world called ‘hybrid’ pitching.
Virtual all-agency briefings, Q&A’s and check-ins have been a game-changer, allowing agencies greater access to clients and their wider teams, particularly those based overseas.
We’ve been able to open up the invite to virtual briefings so that larger pitch teams can attend. Recording all sessions means clients can re-watch meetings to make sure that feedback is thorough, and agencies can re-visit these as many times as they want throughout the process.
Check-in sessions are much simpler with no meeting rooms to organise, and no travel limitations. Clients can make themselves available anytime throughout the week for quick 30-min check-ins, in addition to the more formal tissue meetings. The frequency and relative informality of these sessions helps to create a more collaborative and discursive process, helping to replicate what it would really be like to work as partners.
Pitch theatre has been stripped right back, levelling the playing field between agencies of all sizes, and putting a greater emphasis on the team, the thinking and the work.
What we’ve missed
For all the positives that virtual pitching has brought, there’s no substitute for face-to-face interaction when gauging chemistry between potential partners, or that sense of anticipation and excitement on pitch day. There’s no greater anti-climax than smashing a pitch meeting and logging off Zoom to an empty spare room.
And we mustn’t underestimate the importance of body language and being able to read the room, allowing real-time, instant feedback that’s lost on screen.
Approximately three quarters of AAR’s clients are now asking for face-to-face chemistry and pitch meetings, and we only see this number increasing as we move into 2022.
Some things to remember
Whatever plan you make, you need to be ready to change it overnight. With the number of COVID-19 cases all over the place, the situation is changing on a daily basis. At AAR, we will continue to agree a preferred approach with clients on a case-by-case basis, and are constantly re-evaluating this as we move through the process.
IRL pitching is a muscle and it’s not been used it for a long time. Hybrid presenting is even more difficult – what you might do on Zoom doesn’t always land IRL and vice versa. Trial and error will be key.
Lockdown made agencies a lot more decisive about which opportunities to pursue. This can only be a good thing for our industry and this behaviour needs to stay. Know what you’re right for and importantly what you’re wrong for, and then stick to that.
Meeting with potential agency and brand partners from our kitchens, bedrooms, lofts and garden sheds has exposed us all in a way normally only our families and friends might see. It’s opened a window into each of our lives and created a wonderful, curious vulnerability we’ve not experienced before.
It’s humanised each of us and that openness, humility and humanity is something we’d all do well to keep going with as we try to navigate our way back to a new version of normal. Except for the awkward and inevitable ‘do we shake hands or do we elbow bump?’ moment. That can go.