Bryan Scott, Marketing Communications Director, at Metro, has been on both sides of the pitch process and knows full well the challenges it can bring to both parties. Here he talks about the importance of having a helping hand you can trust.

Three key drivers led us to seek advice in the appointment of a new creative lead partner:

· Time pressure combining with the importance to Metro of selecting the right partner;

· The importance of picking the right team to work with MediaVest, Metro’s long-established media partner, and;

· The need to find a creative partner who would complement the work we already do with the many creative resources, both internal and external, Metro has at its disposal.

Supported by ISBA, it was clear from the ‘chemistry sessions’ that Dare not only clearly understood our business and its challenges, but it embodied the spirit of our core urbanite audience and, as importantly, we knew we would gel well together.

With ISBA’s help we decided that a day’s workshop with Dare would engender the best pitch; giving my marketing team the opportunity to meet them and the chance to bring others, such as our Product Development Director, into the mix. Dare would be a partner to the Metro business, not just the marketing function.

The workshop… well, worked. Personally, seeing the planning first-hand was very helpful and being able to develop some creative territories for the future was a bonus.

All in all, the process took between two and three months. Perhaps you’ve run traditional pitches that have taken less time. However, throughout the whole experience I felt that every step was building on the previous one and was continually reinforcing the belief that we had found the right partner after the initial chemistry sessions.  I’d definitely follow this approach again for any future pitches – but thanks to this process, I’m pretty sure I won’t have to for some time!

 

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David Wethey, founder of AAI and member of the IPA/ISBA Good Pitch initiative last year, shares his views on the business of pitching this week with the Marketing Society.

As part of the Good Pitch steering committee, David saw first-hand the collaboration between ‘renaissance clients and thoughtful agencies’ who agreed that pitches should be shorter, more open, completed with greater respect from both parties, and braver in finding alternatives.

Have these guidelines afforded much change to our industry? Where did it all go wrong, and what should agencies and clients do to avoid a ‘creative shoot-out’? Read David’s full article here.

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At Lloyds Banking Group we have a well-established roster of agencies, with strong and long-standing relationships, so in truth we don’t tend to pitch that often.

Over the last 3 years, though, as we’ve brought the two banks – LTSB and HBOS – together to form Lloyds Banking Group, we have of course consolidated our media agencies into one; moved our LTSB DM business and more recently changed creative agency on Halifax.

To do this within and across a complex organisational structure takes discipline, focus and a lot of collaboration (imagine the number of people who had a view when we consolidated 14 media agencies into 1, for instance).

I’d characterise our key learning over this period as follows:

Be absolutely sure that you need to pitch
It sounds obvious, but we’ve all seen – been part of pitches – where neither client nor agencies, in their hearts, are really convinced why the whole process is happening. Be honest and tough with yourself and only kick it off if you really, really, really need to go to all that time, trouble and expense.

Get the right brief
As a client it’s your responsibility to ensure that the brief is keyed into a key business issue – or is at least sufficiently representative of a current business issue so that the people on the receiving end of the agencies’ output recognise the issue it’s trying to address

Have the same brief
Make sure all parts of the business agree the focus of the pitch brief. In any large organisation it’s impossible for the brief to encompass all of everyone’s needs, so you need to broker agreement as to what the brief does and does not cover so that it can be judged accordingly. Oh, and don’t let anyone change the brief mid-way through the process…there lies doom and confusion.

Get the right people around the table
As a client marketing director, If you’re heading up the pitch it’s your responsibility to get the right people at the right level around the table on pitch day. Ideally in the meetings or if not, briefed asap afterwards.

And if your decision needs some form of higher-level executive sign-off, at least have the decency to ensure that the higher-level gets to meet your recommended winning agency.

Design the right process
There is no single perfect pitch process, so be prepared to vary according to circumstances. You may have good reason to flex or lengthen the process – or stage things differently. And don’t be scared to shorten the process!

Help the pitching agencies navigate your organisation
Especially for non-incumbent agencies, a new prospective client organisation can be a complex and fearsome beastie, and many hours of agency time can easily be spent unprofitably running around the client stakeholder set. Help the agencies focus where you need them to focus.

If you get most of those right, you should be in good shape for a successful pitch process and the right outcome – for client and agency.

Joe Clift
Brand & Customer Marketing Director
Lloyds Banking Group

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News International (NI) just carried out a couple of pitches for large projects that took roughly 3 weeks, from start to finish, with a maximium of 40 working hours required from both sides. The whole process was about learnings, approaches and very top line thinking. We were really looking for experience, techniques, skills and fit with NI. We did not want the agencies using up lots of time and money when we wanted both parties to work together to define the problem and thus the overall solution.

There are some valuable learnings:-

1.     Agencies crave face time with clients – so how can we do this when trying to make the pitch competitive and not too time consuming for both sides?

2.     How do we stop agencies from doing what we ask them not to do (e.g. “don’t provide any boards or routes” – what do they do? Provide boards and routes.)

3.     The social piece (the agency account team and NI Team went out for a drink together) really worked and the cultural fit was so important in getting a successful outcome.

4.     How would we get agencies to be more open within a briefing and ask the important killer questions without giving away the crown jewels?

5.     Planning is vital to success.

6.     Get a Project Manager to make sure it all works.

7.     Experience cannot be taken for granted when running these types of programme.

8.     Collaboration is good, up to a point, but someone has to make a decision.

9.     The client needs to be clear of what they want (I don’t mean the finished article, but they must know in which direction they are aiming).

10. Have key personnel available for all meetings so a decision is informed.

The agencies all felt that they had an equal chance of winning, and it is now down to the NI team and the agency to work together to deliver the project to time and budget.

Is the process perfect? No, but I can see how to refine it and come down harder on agencies who do not follow the rules. I believe an average score of 8 (out of 10) from the agencies when asked if the project had been a success.

Richard Woodford
Category Manager – Advertising & Marketing
News International

 

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