Agency Pitches: A Review

Agencies are filled with smart, funny, creative and extremely talented people. When given a boundary-pushing brief that challenges them, they will rise to the occasion, and then some.

Over the last few weeks, as I watched various agency presentations, it was amazing to see pdf pages from marketers’ briefs come to life in ideas, proposals, and demonstrations of imaginative thinking.

Although the briefings for each pitch were of course wildly different from each other,  certain themes were consistent across all sessions.

I thought it would be interesting to share these themes. Call it a year-end trends summary. Call it random thoughts from a cranky marketer. Here goes:

Digital everything. “Duh,” I hear you say. And yes, this is obvious. But what’s changed is that in the past, you would see the digital ad specialist stand up and do a bit on the merits of online advertising.

Agencies today start with digital. It sits at the heart of their ideas.



In the past, when an agency wanted to “wow” a crowd of advertisers eager to change agencies, they’d throw in a couple of highly emotive TV commercials Today they throw in emojis, short videos, an AI system that can build thousands of ads and publish and A/B test them all by themselves, a tweet that garnered hundreds of thousands retweets, and so on.

To boot, they also explain how data and insights come together before, during and after the campaign to understand consumers’ likes and behaviors, tracking their every move to find interesting intersections and build and expand connections and relationships.

It is part creepy and part fascinating to see how we are all getting fed what the AI thinks we want or like.

New ways of working. In the past, after the razzle-dazzle of the creative pitch, you would perhaps see the media guy waffle through a slide or two explaining that what was just shown would appear in a lot of media, all the time.

Yawn. Now media, or connections, is present from the start.

Also, agencies now present an org chart less often. It’s more likely they’ll present a floor plan showing you how this human machine they’ve designed for you will sit and work together — and even have you integrated into it.

Advertising is dead, long live advertising! It’s fascinating that with all the talk about how a campaign will work and how people and technology will seamlessly integrate, there’s not a lot of time devoted to the actual specifics of the campaign.

Much of the presentation is devoted to explaining all the data, insights, analytics, collaboration and integration, and consequently “creation” sometimes gets a little lost in the mix. Examples of work will start by showing a video which may or may not have been on TV. But then there is a quick shift to how it all cascaded online, and how it drove engagement and perhaps even sales.

Obviously a lot of my observations were driven by particular briefs. But I think the direction and structure of “how we work” is more fundamental — and I don’t think these will reverse any time soon.

1 comment about "Agency Pitches: A Review".
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  1. Tom Foty from foty art inc., December 19, 2017 at 10:59 a.m.

    So true! I will say, I am a illustrator, and remember... I did have the honor of working on a very creative pitch for an agency recently that was back to the "old school way," heavy on drawings and visuals. It was a huge success for them! Maybe the pendulum is swinging back that way a bit?

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