Media and marketing consultant ID Comms and the 4As released a study today based on a survey of media agency executives that highlights perceived flaws in the agency pitch process.
It provides suggestions for improving the process -- which, the organizations reason, will also improve agency-client relationships.
The study contains both qualitative and quantitative components and quotes a number of media agency CEOs including Wavemaker’s Amanda Richman and Steve Williams of Essence. Respondents represent agencies with combined media billings of more than $55 billion.
A key flaw, the research found, is that clients are often unclear about what the are looking for from their media agency. And they tend to remain vague throughout the pitch process, even when pressed for details.
The study quotes Richman, commenting on the RFI stage of pitches: “Let’s just be more transparent with each other on what the challenges are and what is motivating the pitch so we can put our resources towards the best solution.”
The RFI stage, the study concludes, is an earlier “filtering stage” where clients often require expensive video presentations or details on master service agreements that are better left for a later stage in the process.
Pricing exercises are often perceived as overly complicated and counterproductive. Williams is quoted in the study as saying: “There is a particular lack of consistency, and clarity, around pricing exercises and templates, and how agencies are expected to complete them -- so an industry standard would be a constructive move.”
And requests for proposals are often lengthy but full of questions that don’t provide agencies the best opportunity to highlight capabilities and expertise. “Advertisers should focus on the key questions that relate to their particular business challenges,” at the RFP stage, the report advises. “Fewer but more important questions would stop this stage from feeling generic and untailored to the advertiser’s needs.”
Chemistry sessions also frequently suffer from a lack of clarity, per the report. Clients should make a concerted effort at this stage "to ensure that agencies know exactly what is expected of them and be mindful of the resource required where they go beyond the basic 'meet-and-greet' session."
Final presentations are a critical and high-stress part of the pitch process with the highest level of agency resource investment and senior management engagement, per the study. And respondents noted that clients often impose unreasonably tight deadlines at this point in the process. “In general, the one thing that would help make pitches better is more time to do good work,” Williams responded in the qualitative portion of the study.
“Pitches are a big drain on the resources of a media agency, which is often managing multiple reviews simultaneously,” said Tom Denford, North American CEO, ID Comms. “While agencies have gotten better in recent years at prioritizing the pitches they compete for and being more focused with their resources, more discipline on the advertiser side would enable agencies to be more strategic and do better work. A clearer pitch process enables all participating agencies to present their best talent, resources and ideas to the advertiser. This in turn creates more business value for the advertiser.”
Matt Kasindorf, senior vice president management services, 4A’s, added: “Advertisers need to think deeply about how they run their pitches as they look to get the very best out of the agency community…agencies need clarity on the advertiser’s goals and objectives if they are to identify the more appropriate solutions.”