Life’s a pitch

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Sometime back I had whined about the process of new business pitches. It’s time to whine again. Some recent incidents at work have reiterated these things about new business efforts in advertising:

– The final decision on the agency is rarely a reflection of the quality of strategic inputs or creative work. Some other powerful factors are also at play. It could be that your MD and their MD are not golf partners yet. Or that the newly joined CMO of their company got a promotion (and this job) thanks to the advertising done by a competing agency. So on and so forth…

– You will never know enough about the clients business in the pitch process. Lets face it, it takes years for someone to ‘dig deep’ and know all the important stuff about a category. Even then one is learning. The pitch process usually lasts for about a month or two. The knowledge of the client’s business is bound to be superficial at his stage. This has an impact on the strategy and the creative work.

– The pitch process is only a partial reflection of the agency attitude and capability. Many clients fail to understand this. The pitch process is usually initated by the middle management at the client side and rarely have the experience or the maturity to fully understand the implications of this. The script that is presented or the layout that is shared is seen as the benchmark for evaluation. In my experience the campaign presented at the pitch rarely sees the light of day.

– Surprises can come from anywhere. And they usually come in the form of people from the global HO, the Finance Head and so on. It is unnerving to see a stranger (who can influence a decision) at the new business pitch meeting. I have always believed that it is important to establish chemistry between people and know each others minds before the final pitch. That’s not always possible. So you end up pitching to say, someone from South Africa or from the Finance Department who may come into the meeting with totally different expectations from the local marketing team.

Recently, Dell’s decision to go with WPP gloablly (who is setting up a dedicated agency, project named DaVinci) was greatly influenced by the persoanl involvement of Sir Martin Sorrell. New business is a lottery, in many ways. Laga to sixer, nahi toh bowled.

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