Ask anyone in an agency their views on pitches, and it’s the thing everyone loves to hate - and hates to love.
At the worst end they are viewed as a gamble, a drain on resources, the cause of much in-fighting (“We’ve only got three days to do the creative because planning have sat on it for a fortnight!”), and a potential confidence killer.
On the best side, pitches bring out people’s raw talents, are great times to be part of a team working together, and winning pitches is a huge confidence boost.
The bigger shame for me, for the most part pitches miss out possibly the most fun bit: working with another body, actually understanding what the “agency” and the “client” will be like working together. This is a massively overlooked part of the process, almost a fatal flaw.
At the studio I try (try as much as possible) to espouse a “no pitch approach”. The pitch process creates a gap between the potential client and its potential creative partner that allows only skirting around the brief.
I recently received a request to pitch from a potentially new client. I reviewed the request, and got back in touch. A quick phone call, and shortly after I was emailing over two screens of questions.
Some answers would have likely have been one wonders (“Yes.” “No.”). Others should have elicited a couple of sentences. Several asked for reference to be supplied.
This was so we just understood what we were doing. It’s pretty much the same process I would have gone through with any hefty brief back going through the studio in my bigger agency days. It isn’t to catch anyone out.
You want to vet what is going through, and at least sense check it, so the brief author is confident they’ve done the right job at their end.
The response I received back: By providing this information the studio would have an advantage over the others [agencies] asked to pitch, so the information was withheld.
My response was to politely decline to further our interest in pitching.
I received a further reply, that this was disappointing, they were really looking forward to seeing our work having heard about the way we work.
I had to reply explaining how we worked.
As a studio we have an approach that is very much about understanding and designing through collaboration. This means we like to involve everyone needed on a project, and usually at the same time.
This tends to mean we have highly productive workshops at the centre of our “creating”, where studio staff and our clients work together. (And in clients we like to have the business problems present, not just the marketing problems.)
We very rarely “pitch” because we feel this belies our understanding and collaboration based approach. We like to gain as much information as we can into an initial brief (which itself can be brief), get across some degree of strategy as a starter (including how we’d all be happy working together), and then get on with it.
We are always more than happy to replace the traditional staged “stand and present” pitch method with a workshop. We find them more rewarding and a more effective way of showing how we can work together.
Any work we are awarded through this? Most of the time we have effectively already had a “kick off”, we’re already ahead with the job, and everyone feels a degree of comfort that we’ve already worked in a productive manner together.
Pitches are also a two way thing - it gives us an opportunity to see how the potential client works with us. No-one wants to go through the pitch process to find they just can’t work together. No-one wants that.
We feel this is a more open approach to a potential relationship, a potential partnership in creating a product.
This approach puts an emphasis on the actual doing in practice - rather than the “salesmanship” of the traditional pitch process.
At the studio we try to do things differently, not to be awkward, but to make work more rewarding. We want the “acquisition” of work to fall more under that remit.
What about you?