Why you should fix rather than pitch
In 2020 we considered the benefits of marketers improving their agency relationships rather than hitting “the dating scene”. At that time we were going through what seemed like a period of unprecedented uncertainty. Fast forward three years and we continue to be in uncertain times. A cost of living crisis, a war in Ukraine and the climate crisis have all contributed to further turbulence for clients and agencies alike.
There’s been a flurry of pitches reported in the first quarter of 2023 and whilst we know that pitching is sometimes the right solution and it is one of the areas The Observatory International specialise in, we also know that for many brands now may not be the time to run a pitch. Instead fixing, not pitching may still be the most appropriate first step before embarking on any agency search process.
Take reasonable steps to resolve and renew
The Pitch Positive Pledge encourages brands to take reasonable steps to reach a successful renewal of the agency relationship, and pitches should only be necessary to achieve business objectives or governance requirements. This is partly because the cost of pitching remains high both from a monetary perspective as well the toll pitching can have on an agency. We’ve estimated that in total a client marketing team can expect to spend 35-40 days on an average pitch, excluding any additional procurement and legal counsel. In addition to this, it costs an agency in the region of £100,000+ and 72 days of people time for an average pitch process. With current budget restraints and increasing business costs, the significant costs of pitching for both sides weighed up against the need to pitch has to be considered before embarking on any process.
Identify the root causes of issues
From time to time clients ask us to run a pitch because the relationship with the agency has broken down beyond repair. Whilst that can be the case, sometimes by probing a little deeper into the root causes of the “break down” we find issues like poor ways of working (from both sides). Pitching doesn’t solve that issue, it just moves a problem to a new relationship. Rapid diagnosis of the relationship issues and remedial action to address them is a better use of time and resource.
Consider the environmental impact
There is also a sustainability element when considering embarking on a pitch process. Again, linking back to the Pitch Positive Pledge, which is aimed at improving the behaviours of agencies and marketers for the benefit of people, planet and profit. However, the pitch process often comes with great cost for all 3 Ps. Both agencies and brands need to consider whether a pitch is truly required and if so, then how to ensure the environmental impact remains low and the pitch ask is proportionate and fair.
Too often, pitching becomes the default. For many pressured clients looking at how to work better with agencies they already work with in the first instance can be a far more affordable, sustainable and effective approach.