Commentary

The Human Side Of Modern Agency Pitches

Have you been part of an agency pitch lately? If so, you will have seen a very different pitch than you would have seen five or 10 years ago. Of course that’s normal, given all the change that is happening in our industry.

Agency RFPs now include lengthy requirements for data, insights, marketing technology and other digital components. These are not “fluff” requests like “increase likes” or “drive search results.”

No, these are complex requirements that seek answers to questions like “Will my tech match your tech?” and “Can my first-party data work with your third-party data?” and “If our data come together, can we still match it back to our business results?”

Obviously, any business that sells directly to consumers will require a fully aligned and integrated tech stack. Businesses that sell items like beauty, fashion and cosmetics are finding that either they, or their competitors, have great success with a digital strategy that drives people into retail or online ordering. Equally, businesses that sell large bulk items (pet food, toilet paper, etc.) find that having an always-on strategy designed to drive people to buy either online or in-store is critical. Every business is impacted by the need to unleash data into sales-driving-connection strategies.

Pitches now reflect this reality — both media and creative pitches. Why data and tech strategies are part of media is obvious per the above explanation, but the world of creative development is changing profoundly, too, due to the requirements of the online economy and online sales, service and relationships funnels.

Companies now need a fully integrated “creative stack.” Regardless of what business they’re in, they need an almost constant stream of content ready for deployment: high volumes of creative executions to A/B test and determine what mix of visuals, offerings and text lead to the highest sales/lead generation or conversion.

As a result, pitches focus more and more on how well agencies can address high-volume, high-turn-over content creation instead of their capability to create a big, dramatic Super Bowl ad. And they focus on the “machine” that allows all of this to happen at scale and at cost.

The funny thing is that, in the end, despite all the technical and creative-at-scale hoopla, human chemistry remains probably the biggest driver of the final decision. Yes, procurement will torture on cost and terms. Yes, media will relentlessly examine and evaluate strategies and buying. And creative will be judged or even tested for potential. But in the end, after having gone through a seriously complex number of high-tech assignments, what probably still matters most to marketers is, “Did I like those people?”

And that is perfectly fine. All the technical and creative requirements are tested as your entry ticket. It answers the question “Can you do it?” But how the teams connect during the pitch is ultimately what will answer the question, “Can I see myself working with these guys on a daily basis — even at those times when the wheels come off?” So, in the ultra-automated marketing tech era, the final decision in a pitch still comes down to humans. I like that.

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