TrinityP3: Incumbent agency has the ‘strongest hand in the pack’ during pitch

Hodges, Saitzyk and Cole onstage at CommsCon

Hodges, Saitzyk and Cole onstage at CommsCon

An incumbent agency in a pitch process is the “strongest hand in the pack” and often don’t recognise how “powerful” incumbency can be, Nathan Hodges, the general manager of TrinityP3 has told an audience in Sydney.

Speaking on a panel with a number of senior clients, at today’s CommsCon conference, Hodges, who works for one of Australia’s major pitch consultancies, said “pitches are a symptom rather than a cause”.

“And the cause of any of these things are around the pace of channel proliferation, the pace around the requirement of specialisms within rosters and within marketing departments and the fact that structures, job titles and people’s skill sets aren’t keeping up with that pace.

“What that means is marketing departments will throw an agency to the wolves or decide an agency relationship isn’t working when the cause is much further up the line than that,” he added.

However, when it does come to a pitch Hodges is of a firm belief that the incumbent advantage is one that agencies need to focus more on rather then becoming caught up in a fear of losing the business.

“From a client’s perspective most agencies are all the same,” he said.

“That’s not just PR agencies – that’s creative agencies, media agencies, digital agencies. It’s a commodity market.

“It’s much easier for you as incumbent to play on things that are not commoditised: relationships, depth of knowledge, history. Then change all the things that need changing.”

Hodges was joined on the panel by Johnson & Johnson’s corporate and public affairs manager Mitzi Saitzyk who was in agreement saying: “The incumbent advantage should in theory be very strong with an agency.

“You [the incumbent] have an established relationship, you know how each other likes to treat work, you have relationships with clients key stakeholders and you have a knowledge of clients systems and processes.

“All of those are really strong advantages in the incumbent’s favour,” she said.

Lend Lease communications manager Larissa Webster said incumbents have an advantage on getting on the agency “long list” before the formal pitch process starts.

“Past work, the incumbent has a real advantage if they’ve done a good job on past work,” she said.

But the incumbents seem to struggle at the final hurdle.

“The incumbent agency doesn’t seem to front up with the same enthusiasm and passion for the business as someone who doesn’t have the business,”  Saitzyk said.

“Somewhere deep inside you, you need to bring that up to the surface and bring it to the pitch process.”

Goodman Fielder’s director of corporate affairs Martin Cole said it was important for incumbent agencies to not be complacent.

“I think it’s important that the agency doesn’t lose perspective or become complacent with the relationship,” he said.

“It’s important that they’re coming to us to say have you thought about doing it this way, it could be off-brief or beyond the remit they have. To be competitive you have to constantly come up with new ideas for the client.”

Miranda Ward


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