How to pitch and what not to do, according to Coad, Dill and Melhuish

Marketers and an agency head have called for a revised approach for pitches during the launch of guidelines for a competitive pitch process.

The Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) and Media Federation Australia (MFA) developed the guidelines to address the flaws identified by advertisers and agencies in a typical tender process.

Speaking at a launch webinar, panellist Jenni Dill, CMO at Arnott’s, said that the pitch process should not be a “fishing expedition”.

Jenni Dill

“Inviting people to a long list or short list is not a fishing expedition” she said. “It all starts with being super clear about what you need as a business and what you need as a brand, and who can best partner with you to solve those real problems.”

She added that those pitches that involve too many parties show that, “as a client that you really clean on what you want to help your business grow”.

“It just becomes a giant waste of everyone’s time,” she added.

Westpac’s group head of brand, advertising and media, Jenny Melhuish seconded that, adding that for marketers, they should start with a clear idea of what the business needs and what agencies can deliver that, and lastly, a partner that shares the same values.

Mark Coad, CEO of IPG Mediabrands, said that for an agency, knowing who else was on the pitch list was a good indication of how well planned and thought out a pitch is.

“Having a group of agencies that are similar on a pitch list says that the client is quite focused on what they are looking for,” he said. “If there is a vast array it says these guys don’t know what they are looking for.”

All three panelists agreed that a good pitch starts with a tight brief from a client.

Coad added that in many cases, a pitch is called because new management has come in, and because of price.

“It’s a lot of work, to put a lot of agencies through to find out what the market can offer,” he said.

“I think it is illegitimate to invite the incumbent to a pitch when you have no intention to renew. I would rather just know that ‘we are incompatible, can’t see our way through this and we are going to market’.”

He added that when new management come in and call a pitch it basically says to the incumbent that, “I don’t have time to get to know you, I don’t trust you”.

Mark Coad

Dill stated that when a strategic brief is done well, “it focuses everyone”.

However, Coad argued that they often receive briefs from clients that have multiple brands, and each brand has its own brief, thus creating extra work and making for a “crap presentation”.

The issue of payment for pitches was also discussed by the panel who had varying views. Coad said that the pitch was an investment, provided not too onerous, however in certain situations should require payment, for example if work produced for a pitch remains property of the client.

Melhuish shared that in her experience if you are an “empathetic” client, there is a conversation to be had about payment. “It might not always end in money, as an example, but there has to be some kind of appreciation for the amount of work it takes.”

Dill added that she had paid agencies for pitch participation, and said that it was “fair and reasonable”.

The guidelines cover all phases of the pitch process, from determining if a pitch process is an appropriate course for the advertiser to embark upon, preparing the tender process and documentation, managing the tender process, and managing the subsequent outcome, including any change of agency.

PWC facilitated the development of the guidelines with three major advertiser members of the AANA and three agency members of the MFA.


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