Why do we need an Alternative?

The fact is that the traditional all-encompassing pitch model is expensive and time consuming for both clients and agencies, everybody knows it, but, until now, there has been no alternative!

Via the Good Pitch initiative ISBA and the IPA have been working together to develop some ‘Alternative’ pitch processes for clients to consider, the great news is that clients, in the main, are welcoming these Alternatives with interest and in many cases are very happy to consider an Alternative process and are often relieved that a more concise way to pitch is available. In order to continue to drive change and encourage clients to consider an Alternatives Pitch Process, the ISBA Consultancy Team has developed some practical guidance on the process required to successfully manage these alternatives this guidance based on our experiences of working with clients helping them manage alternative pitch processes.

The ideal situation would of course be for a client to work together with a pitch consultant to implement an Alternative pitch process but as this is not always possible, this guidance should help provide direction to any clients considering an Alternative process. First, though it’s important to ensure we are all starting from the same point and using the same language:

Where we are now…

Commonly a creative or media agency pitch takes at least 3 months, (on a good day!) often much longer, and involves:

  • Creation of brief
  • Identification of long list of agencies
  • Gathering credentials (RFI)
  • Shortlisting
  • Chemistry meetings
    A chemistry meeting does exactly what is says on the tin! It’s an opportunity for the client to meet with the agencies before any kind of pitch takes place, to see how the ‘chemistry’ works between the teams – sometimes the meeting format will be an extended creds presentation by the agency, sometimes the client will pose a specific question for debate.
  • Pitch briefing sessions
  • Follow up Q&A sessions
  • Tissue sessions
    A tissue session traditionally sits half-way between the pitch briefing and pitch day providing an opportunity for the agency to talk the client through their thinking so far, before embarking on any creative, research or production. At this point the client can either advise the agency they are headed in the right or entirely wrong direction / advise if something similar has been done in the past and didn’t work for some reason, or give the go-ahead for one or several ideas to be developed further.
  • Negotiations
  • Pitch day
  • Field Testing
  • (Possibly) Pitch day 2
  • Appointment

….at the very least. This is without listing all of the intricacies involved in organising all of the above – which, unless you are using a pitch consultant requires a dedicated project management person or team.

Why use an Alternative

The ISBA research (see download on the right) revealed that some clients are interested in, and indeed already using different pitch models, others default to the traditional method – generally because they are not aware of alternative routes!

Since the launch of this site, ISBA has had a great deal of success helping clients consider, and use Alterative pitch processes.  Chemistry / Tissue and Workshop pitches have been particularly well received by the client community and the agencies involved in these Alternative pitches have been equally excited and enamored.

To date, Alternatives tend to be working particularly well for projects in the following areas:

  • Social media
  • PR
  • Design
  • Incumbent agency retention (No Pitch, Pitch)

But the main reasons for considering an Alternative tend to be:

  • Where a hybrid of capabilities are required
  • Where a more specialist set of capabilities and/or particular market knowledge/experience is required
  • When a fully mocked up creative solution is not required
  • The client wishes to explore agency capabilities in depth without a formal pitch
  • If you need a quicker/swifter decision
  • If you need a strategic rather than a full creative view
  • If you have limited resource and need to save time and money
  • If you need to find an agency or consultancy partner and get them on board in order to help you define the ultimate brief.

The 4 most popular Alternative pitch scenarios are listed to the left.