2015 could be remembered as the summer of mega pitches. Last month P&G announced a review of its $2.5bn North American media account, joining a long list of brands that have already announced large regional and global reviews in the last few months.
They include Unilever, J&J, Citibank, Coca-Cola, Volkswagen Group, L’Oreal, Visa… the list goes on. In total, around $25 billion worth of media is currently up for grabs.
This volume of pitching should give any brand that hasn’t already announced a review, pause for thought.
That’s because agencies have limited resources to put together a competitive offer for your brand and that resource is likely to be stretched. You could find that the value you seek – be it talent, price or access to innovation and technology, is not on offer because there are potentially better partners in town.
Most advertisers might be better off, pausing, waiting and getting ready for the pitch than leaping into an already crowded market. This is critical at any time but especially if you are going to market when agencies and their new business teams are likely to be fully stretched.
There are really only six reasons for pitching at any time and you need to consider them well, because agencies will be looking for the rationale behind a pitch to indicate what you’re looking for and hence how they might win it.
They will scrutinize this to determine what priority (or not) to assign your pitch amongst the many others they are contesting.
They will need to be clear if the pitch is due to:
Legal – the agency has committed a serious breach of contract that creates the need for change.
Competitive Conflict – driven either by an agency new business win, the agency having to resign your account or the client acquiring a new business / company which puts agency in a new conflict position.
Performance issue – the agency performance is below standard and the issue is not something that can be resolved by a good Supplier Relationship Management process.
Change of share – significant new billings gained or lost by agency which impacts client standing and value creation potential because it potentially affects negotiation leverage.
Acquisition / Merger – which prompts the client to want to renegotiate based on a larger billing volume or where the two businesses use different agencies, the desire to consolidation those agencies into a single supplier contract.
Change of Strategy – brands typically shift between centralization and decentralization at various points and with any centralization comes a need for consolidation of agency resources. Pitching to consolidate into fewer agencies (ideally into one single holding company) has become a popular strategy to facilitate easier agency management and ensure priority status within the winning agency group. This should deliver more value back to the client in the form of access to better pricing, better talent and better tools and technology.
Even if you tick one or more of the boxes above, the most important consideration a brand needs to make is not if to pitch but when. With such a congested market place right now you should only enter the fray if you are super organized and have a clear strategy for success.
Those pitches which set out a clear ambition and objective will tend to get priority status in agencies, rather than those that appear muddled or are clearly just a cost saving initiative.
Being a priority pitch for agencies vastly increases the potential for you to secure the key three elements listed above (media value, talent and accountability).
Use this time to consider what your rationale will be and be prepared to articulate it clearly. Only then can you consider when might be the right time to launch.
If you don’t have these elements in place then you should seriously consider if you might get a better result by delaying your pitch for 6-9 months and using that time wisely to get well prepared.
Wait and the tempest may have eased somewhat. The business that moves agencies in 2015 will have settled, new business directors will have taken a well-earned respite on a Caribbean island.
They will be fresh and ready to fight over your account and you will find it easier to be a priority pitch in 2016.