The only people who enjoy pitching are those that win. And no one wins all the time. So perhaps few tears will be shed when the current era of mega pitches and new business battles comes to an end.
The urge to pitch every three to five years is slowly being curbed because the commercial rewards no longer exist. Instead, I believe we are now in the formative years of a long-overdue change where brands and their agency partners will form deep strategic relationships.
We can realistically look forward to a future where agencies will embed strategic thinkers either physically or metaphorically within client businesses to infuse smart strategic thinking.
These relationships will need an occasional course correction but clients will stay with their agency partner – unless there is something fundamentally troubling – for decades. These partnerships will become the fiber-entwining relationships of the future.
Even when we do see pitches in the future, price will become an incidental component of media reviews. Instead, everything will be based around growth and the ability to drive a growth agenda where agency and advertiser work together to exploit the opportunities that the category marketplace offers.
This will happen, and indeed is already happening in some companies, once marketers are more accountable and responsible for media decision-making. More and more progressive businesses are beginning to consider their historic position of relinquishing control over media decision-making.
At the simplest level, we see this fundamental shift in our ID Comms Global Trading Survey for 2021, which shows a dramatic shift in favor of quality buys over commodity buys in the three years. While 92% of respondents agree that “advertisers who treat media as a quality buy rather than a commodity buy are at an advantage,” the number of those who strongly agree has risen to 70% of respondents, up 20 points from the 2018 results.
This transformation represents a big change from much of what has happened over the last decade. Ten years ago, a lot of big businesses that spent big money took media away from marketers and handed it to procurement to manage as a cost. Procurement didn’t have the experience to manage media effectively and used KPIs that didn’t work. Bidding on live spreadsheets became a way of winning business.
All of which led us to an addiction to hard-savings every three to five years, culminating in media-palooza in 2015. Advertisers basically squeezed agencies in terms of fees, to the point where some agencies were having to re-engineer how they managed that money, just to break even (and, of course, none of this was helped by media agencies being willing to buy big accounts).
Procurement has changed dramatically in recent years and the transformation is being led by the fact that any savings to be had on media price has been completely redeemed.
Today’s competitive advantage is being driven by smart media management. If you want media investment to be a driver for growth, then you also have to believe that having the best team on your business, engineered in a way where they are obsessively focused on delivering your business outcomes, will deliver greater productivity and effectiveness.
The next few years will demonstrate that getting talent, process and the innovation framework right is more fundamental than price. They will also highlight that the benefits of media that delivers a business outcome is going to be exponentially more powerful and productive than the old focus on price.
These fundamental changes will also give the media community a unique opportunity to recover from its biggest mistake: giving away thinking for free. By being paid for the execution, agencies (and clients) have undervalued strategy, planning and thought leadership.
The challenge for our industry in a post-price world is to illustrate the value we can add to thought leadership, strategic thinking and consultative partnerships and relationships.