Advertising

Speculative pitches: whose idea is it anyway?

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PPT.jpgPitching is part of agency business. And all agencies are fully aware of the pitfalls and speculative nature of a pitch. Yet, the proverbial pie in the sky is motivation enough for pitches to thrive.

Sometimes an idea that is central to a client’s business – the core philosophy, brand name & logo are sought for through an agency pitch. And you may very well have a situation where the client implements the brand name but doesn’t award the business to the agency. Forget about compensation (either in the form of a pitch fee or a one-off payout) either, as they could claim that the idea was presented by more than one agency. In effect, the client gets the idea free of cost. An idea central to the business, not just a campaign idea. Sure the agency working on the business gets compensated in some form, but what about the agencies who invested time & money behind the pitch effort? If that exercise was done by a specialist brand identity agency, it would have setback the client by a few million dollars. And they got it for less than the cost of an art work.

Sure, pitching is good for an agency on many counts. It energizes the agency and rallies the troops to a single cause. The adrenalin flows (and so does the beer) during the pitch process and if the business accrues, it serves as a magnet to attract the right talent. Branches of medium & small-sized agencies, specially in smaller advertising markets, have to pitch to survive – they usually don’t have the cushion of a large, steady client who won’t just up and go or threaten to go, every year.

The idea of a pitch fee has been around for some time, merely as an idea. I doubt if anyone insists on it, simply because if they refuse to pitch without a fee, there will be 15 other agencies willing to. Clients justify a pitch by seeing it as the only way to judge whether an agency is right for their business and if they ‘grasp’ the business well enough. Hmm, in 2 weeks? Why does all this seem like deja vu?

Unless agencies come together and set some uniform ground rules on pitching and not short sell our ideas, pitches will continue. And there will be no value for ideas during a pitch. It will all change when either pigs fly or when chewing gum makes your teeth so white, it can light up a palace.

Any thoughts on the whole pitch thing?

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A marketing communications professional with a keen interest in all things advertising. I share creative ads and views on the ad industry here. Views are personal. See Disclaimer for more.

3 Comments

  1. The failure of pitch fee being implemented as a norm simply shows advertising is not and does not function like an industry in India. Self-sponsored annual drinking sessions in Goa don’t make an industry. How we respect what we do and how much we price our own services is a better indicator of that.
    Harsh, but true if you ask me.

  2. I couldn’t agree more with your article. On several occasions I would go pitch an idea to a client and he would disapprove, only later to put it in use. Although, it is also difficult to work around a pitching fee, especially for smaller agencies, like mine.
    http://www.cockybox.com/

  3. Rahul, HPS, thanks for the comments. Pitch fee is an idealistic thing – may never be implemented save for some rare occasions. As for ‘pricing ourselves’ fairly, the attitude at the pitch stage usually carries right through.

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