Flawed Pitch Process: What ID Comms Study Doesn't Say

According to the study released last week by ID Comms in partnership with the American Association of Advertising Agencies, U.S. advertisers are failing to get the most value from media pitches because of flawed processes and lack of communication.  

A key flaw revealed? Clients are often unclear about what they are looking for from their media agency (and I’ll add to this by saying any agency — not just media ones). 

They tend to remain vague throughout the pitch process, even when pressed for details. 

What the study doesn’t say is that when the process is organized, detail-oriented, transparent, communicative, focused on coaching both sides involved in the process for the greater purpose of forging a solid client-agency partnership, that partnership outlasts the industry average.  And clarity from start to finish is key!  

So what should agencies do to help fix a flawed pitch process? Here are some key factors to consider:



RFI – Request FURTHER Information.  If the RFI from the client is vague, but you’re interested in working on the brand, then stop guessing and start gathering.  Turn it around and develop a direct but concise list of questions that requests FURTHER information from the client.  Ask them some key questions such as: 

  • What are your key marcom goals and objectives within the next 12 months?  
  • What are the major business issues that you currently face?
  • What is the one primary problem that keeps you up at night?
  • Describe a successful client-agency relationship.

Start probing for information to understand the brand’s business and communications challenges that will help you pinpoint an ideal client.

Chemistry Isn’t Canned!  What exactly is a chemistry meeting?  No one can create chemistry.  It either happens naturally when doing something with someone, or it doesn’t.  If you’re required to have a chemistry meeting and the client cannot offer a clear agenda, then write one out prior to the meeting and get it approved.  

Go one step further and suggest a handful of questions for the client to think about prior to them coming to your meeting.  This will help the client team to be focused and not only know what to expect for your meeting, but also prepare them to have a more interactive session with you.  

The more interactive, the better you and they can evaluate cultural compatibility.

Time to Think.  There is some benefit to moving the agency search process at a fair pace not to lose momentum — and, of course, to get the new agency on board sooner than later for the client.  

But there is something to be said for time as a necessary ingredient for success.  It takes time to go through iterations of work and think about comprehensive solutions.  

Ideas don’t just pop up out of nowhere.  Research, conversation, interaction, clear direction, feedback are all necessary in order to craft solid solutions for the brand’s business issues.  And it takes time to get there.  

Request that you have a final check-in meeting to allow the client to preview the work being developed prior to the final pitch.  Allow them to comment on the direction(s) and course-correct so they feel ownership over the final work being presented at the final pitch.

Finally, there is no other industry that gives away intellectual property in order to “get the business.” Crafting a solid strategy with deep insights is a necessary part of any search process — but when it comes to creative, do not agree to produce spec work. Developing broad-stroke creative concepts is far enough, and you can bring it to life by showing past but relevant client work. 

All this starts with a pitch process that is run well, with clear direction, specific evaluation points and known needs.  If the pitch isn’t going to be structured and it feels very wishy-washy, it’s only an indication of what the client-agency partnership will be like -- relationship discord leading to short-term tenures.

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