The Second Coming Of Pitch-A-Palooza: What's Different, What's The Same

Just when the agency holding companies thought that the worst of the pitch avalanche was behind them, we find ourselves in a second wave. And this second wave (2017/2018) actually appears to be larger than the first (2015/2016). The list of marketers that are actively reviewing their ecosystems, and those who have considered doing so, comprises a “who’s who” of, well — many.

Some of these marketers are global, some are local. Some seek to improve one service only (media, creative, or digital), while most are more holistic.

Why is this happening? Here are the reasons we see:

What hasn’t changed: Marketers have gained a much better understanding of the shortcomings of agency and service partner contracts, which continues to drive the need for change. The ANA, WFA and other industry bodies have done an amazing job of raising awareness and laying out what steps to take, and their members are following their advice.

These moves are currently exacerbated by the continued revelations of how nefarious operators influence whole populations far more effectively than brand marketers have ever done. Not that brand marketers want to emulate the Russian click-bait farms. They are more concerned about (a) how to not associate themselves with anything that carries risk, and (b) how to avoid damaging the whole medium so consumers lose faith altogether.



Also  unchanged: The continued tension of having to do “more marketing” with a finite budget. This requires marketers to rethink how to deploy their budgets, and, consequently, what types of services they must contract. This issue alone is having a profound effect on the shape and structure of agency holding companies’ service offerings.

There is increased desire to invest in “the top end,” coming up with smart strategic thinking. Consequently, marketers need to find more cost-efficient strategies that must translate into lots of content and touch points. Can you say “commodity”?

We’re in the middle of rethinking the digital model. This goes beyond “simple” transparency and operational issues, which are addressed in my first point above.

When digital first came along, advertisers basically used it as an advertising -- and sometimes, direct marketing -- tool. This was the best we all could do, as the platforms and commercial offerings were in constant flux, growing very fast, and it was unclear what they were actually good at delivering.

We are now beginning to gain a much better understanding of digital. As an advertising medium, the performance appears to be pretty poor: reach is fragmented and therefore not very effective, except if you hit the viral jackpot.

Our understanding of digital as an engagement medium is growing. Brands are allowing their consumers to interact with them, buy, respond and provide direct brand feedback.

As a data generator, we are slowly getting better at understanding which data matters, and what we can do with it. AI and bots play a large role in this evolutionary state we find ourselves in, and marketers are asking a growing number of potential problem-solvers to build solutions with them.

The combination of these components is at the root of the current wave of pitches --  different from when it was just about “cleaning up” poorly understood (digital) agency contracts.

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