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Industry Contributor 24 Nov 2021 - 4 min read

Marketers getting braver for 2022 – a default agency pitch frenzy is the danger

By Jen Davidson - Managing Partner, Tumbleturn Media

I’ve seen clients scrolling LinkedIn while an agency, often some of the best and brightest this industry has to offer, is presenting a pitch. Other times, the client simply hasn’t turned up, Tumbleturn Media’s Jen Davidson writes. If agencies are paid for their time and effort, it undoubtedly delivers better ideas, thinking, and outcomes.

Bad brand behaviour

The toll on agencies who are on a pitch treadmill is immense. It's costly, exhausting and the workload is above and beyond day-to-day client commitments. Add to that dramatic talent shortages across the industry, and it’s even more taxing. 

But ‘ditching the pitch’ is a fanciful idea. After all, how are clients meant to assess the market without pitching? And how are new entrants into the market able to compete?

But clients have the power to change the process. Pitches give an opportunity to see the best of the best – it should be an exciting process for any client. To have the best minds in the country thinking about your business and applying terrific international learnings and insights into your category can be extraordinary. There are very few learning opportunities for marketers that will match the quality of thinking in a well-run pitch. So why should this be a free kick for clients? In no other industry is the product is given away for free, so why should the product of ideas be the exception? 

Yes, there’s a worthy prize at the end for the winning agency. But every agency has put their best thinking forward and every agency deserves to be compensated for their efforts. If a client has asked for original thinking on their business as part of the pitching process, they should be prepared to compensate all agencies for the work. Win, lose or draw.

There is nothing but upside in putting a monetary value on original thinking. Aside from sending the right message to the industry, clients with skin the game are always more engaged in the process; the briefs are always better, the evaluations and discussions are always more robust. The more invested and engaged a client is in the pitch process, the better the outcome. Always. 

In running pitches, we see a whole gamut of behaviours. From clients not turning up to meetings or checking out LinkedIn while an agency is presenting, to not even bothering to read the submissions. In hindsight, the poor behaviours have been from clients that haven’t been prepared to invest in the process. These agency relationships haven’t lasted. 

But how much is enough?

We have benchmarks for just about everything else, but we don’t have benchmarks for the value of thinking and ideas. It does depend on how much work (not credentials) that you’re asking of the agency, but it should go a fair way in compensating them for their time. 

2022 is shaping up to be a year of change. It feels like marketers are getting braver and looking for new and different. But this shouldn’t mean an automatic pitch or switch. Always go deep with your current partner first, explore other options for new thinking or new teams on your business. For those that do need to go to pitch, think hard about the outcome and how to invest in the process – that means time and money. The more a marketer puts into the process, the better the prize. Guaranteed.

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Jen Davidson

Managing Partner, Tumbleturn Media

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