Answers for Adam: Is pitching the right way to choose an agency?

With agencies spending tens of thousands of dollars on competitive pitch processes Adam Ferrier asks whether there is a better way for clients and agencies to partner. 

I was once asked (as the incumbent) to pitch for a piece of business. The client said to me “I really hope you win”, and said they would do what they could to assure us a positive path through the pitch process. We spent a vast amount of time and money on that pitch, and (in hindsight) predictably lost.

adam-ferrier-2-copyAs an aside I’ve since learned to understand that whenever a client or prospective client says “I really hope you win” it probably means you’ve lost.

Now I have no issue with pitching, in fact I really enjoy it. Pitching is a necessary and fair part of business. Most industries have some equivalent to a pitch process (and – news alert – not many industries pay people to pitch).

However, if you’ve ever read anything on behavioural economics or have been in advertising for more than a little while then you’ll know we tend to make decisions intuitively. We decide first, and then use the information available to rationalise that decision. This goes for choosing an agency as well. To this end some pitch processes seem rather drawn out and elaborate when in reality the decision is often made in the first 10 minutes of a chemistry meeting (as a pitch consultant once told me)?

My question is this – what do you think is the right process to choose an agency?

Adam Ferrier is CSO at independent agency CumminsRoss. He’s the author of ‘The Advertising Effect: How to change behaviour’. @adamferrier


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