Marketers Need To Look Inside Before Issuing A Pitch

As many of you know, I care deeply about the “how” of marketing: How are budgets allocated? How are results measured and tied back to plans and activities? How are marketing departments set up for maximum success? How are agencies contracted, managed and incentivized for their contributions? How is “new news” still allowed as a phrase in marketing presentations?

I care deeply about figuring out how to do marketing before doing the actual job. And so should all marketers.

Marketers are often guilty of starting with the end, and skipping over the all-important start and middle.

What do I mean by that?

Well, how often do you see marketers calling for a pitch simply because there is (a) a new head of marketing, or (b) for whatever reason, the current agency has been determined to “suck”?

While (a) and/or (b) might be valid reasons to go and hunt for a new agency solution, I would argue that there are a number of other things that need to happen first or at least at the same time before issuing RFPs to (potential) agencies.



A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I was working for a well-known marketing-driven company. It was determined that our agency sucked, and that a very different agency solution was needed. The company had depended on well-known global agency brands for its  (highly successful) advertising, but for whatever reason, the agencies were deemed out of touch and no longer capable of creating meaningful connections with consumers.

An RFP was issued, full of calls for “new," different” and “mold breaking," to ensure the receiving parties understood that something revolutionary was needed. The receiving agencies were not the typical big-name agencies but a kaleidoscope of funky names like Bare, Father, Glitch, Peach Toad, and others.

After seeing many proposals that were indeed very, very different from what the company would have typically considered, an agency  was chosen and briefed on its very first project. Things  went horribly wrong, and the why is because of what the marketing organization had not done.

It had not changed the way briefings were written. It had not changed the measurement to reflect a very different approach to advertising. It had not changed the way it was going to evaluate the agency’s ability to deliver against the business. It had not changed the other agencies in the ecosystem that were going to take the radically different ideas and translate them to shopper marketing initiatives or sponsorship activations.

It had, most crucially, not changed the way the marketing department worked, or reviewed the “very different” work and managed a “very different” agency.

You can guess the outcome.

Recently, Deborah Wahl, the McDonald’s US CMO and vice chair of the Association of National Advertisers, spoke about the process McDonald’s went through that resulted in its appointment of We Are Unlimited. Before issuing an RFP for a new agency partner, she said she would “highly recommend that other advertisers undergo the [internal review] process, because it forced McDonald's to examine its own business and align internally before figuring out what it was looking for in an outside partner.”

And that is the best advice I can give you. While a new agency, radically revolutionary or just “new,” may sometimes give you the kick up-the-you-know-what your marketing needs, first look inside to set yourself up for success.

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