The brief from a client is the foundation of every agency’s final product. The last session of the Good Brief Week was brought to a fitting close with a ‘best-in-class’ example from Molson Coors and its agency BrandOpus on how to create the perfect pitch brief.

The six events across ISBA and IPA’s Good Brief Week saw clients and agencies examining, analysing and sharing briefing best practices. All sessions were rich in audience participation with both agencies and clients sometimes sharing their disquiet and issues when talking about prevailing briefing practices. Agencies highlighted issues including receiving briefs via text message or not getting enough (or sometimes any!) feedback because of the clients’ fear of “giving too much away.” Clients highlighted issues around briefing training and time pressures and achieving agency collaboration across integrated ideas briefs.

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Debbie Morrison, Director of Consultancy and Best Practice, ISBA, said the ISBA Consultancy team has been working with the client community on trying to make, in particular, the pitch briefing process much more interactive and immersive between client and participating agencies and has been encouraging clients to run agency immersion sessions/days to launch the pitch brief and enable an agile deep dive into the business and its people.

The final session of Good brief Week was a presentation of one such pitch immersion session.

Molson Coors’ pitch challenge was the revitalisation of the visual identity of its flagship brand Carling, including its portfolio architecture and packaging design. The client discussed the pitch challenge and the pitch process leading up to the appointment of BrandOpus.

The panellists:
Laura Mitchell, Head of Media & Digital Strategy, Molson Coors
Mark Atherton Head of Graphics, Molson Coors
Louise de Ste. Croix, Client Development Director, BrandOpus
Leo Hadden, Strategy Director & Associate Partner, BrandOpus


The Pitch Challenge for Carling

•    Market Challenge

A consolidating and a maturing beer market in the UK.
Growing trend towards off-trade.
Craft beers growing in popularity.

Carling & its competitors could be considered as ordinary and with little to distinguish them. This, according to the client, sat at odds with the brand’s ATL campaign and positioning.


• Brand Challenge

Visual identity of Carling needed a refresh.
They wanted to unleash a new unifying Carling brand identity to channel all of the brand’s energy into the most loved brand for the mainstream lager drinker.
Carling needed to drive volume sales to strengthen their position as the UK’s No.1 lager brand.
The brand wanted to deliver packaging that consumers just cannot walk past.

The start of the process to address these challenges was the recruitment of the ‘right’ design agency. Molson Coors has been using the hyper-immersive method for briefing agencies on pitches since 2009, using an expansive sets of tools to find the right partner for the agency.

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The first steps for Carling:

• The brand created a project team and a charter drew up what success looked like and what it wanted from its agency.
• It looked at their incumbent agencies first.
• It also looked outside its roster of agencies – at agencies with an industry reputation for effectiveness and those known for their radical thinking.
• The client drafted a scope of work, involved ISBA so they could identify other potential agency partners and to discuss what it was they were looking to achieve.
• A long list was then drawn into a short-list
• Carling then invested in chemistry sessions.


The Pitch Process

The immersive way of working with agencies is very different to the conventional creative response pitch.
1. It fosters a vision of how clients want their winning agencies to perform.
2. Leads to co-creation and co-collaboration throughout the process.
3. Molson Coors made this real with a joint brand immersion & pitch brief session, post the chemistry session – held the event at their offices in Burton with all the pitching agencies together, which included presentations from all stakeholders, brewery visit, beer tasting, pitch brief launch, commercials and one on one q&a sessions.
4. With all the agencies at their Burton-on-Trent office for an immersive session, it was an opportunity for the client to see how agencies behave with each other, against competition, how they digested the content shared with them, and more importantly it allowed the client to see the agencies as people and characters. Their behaviors. The way they responded in different situations.
5. Carling’s BIM Model – The Brand Identification Model was not positioned at the front end of the pitch process but was almost like a goal post introduced to agencies at a later stage during the immersion process. It tested the agencies’ strategic capabilities and whether they understood the cohesive vision of the brand.
6. The immersive process created a level playing field for the agencies.


The Extra Mile

The client provided extra support to the agencies during the process.
1. A two-way tissue-session, where the agency was not just presenting but also getting feedback at all times.
2. Graphics studio support to the agencies.
3. There was enough time provided to help build relationships with agencies – the more the client ‘saw’ the agencies, the more engaged the client became, enhancing their ability to make better decisions.
4. Partner feedback provided at all stages, not because the client wanted the agencies to buy into one culture but to help support a collaborative culture.
5. All other agencies working on the Carling brand were invited to contribute to the process and the main creative agency was brought into the client team to help evaluate culture and fit and pitching agencies were given equal access to the incumbent agencies, it was up to them to take this up.

For BrandOpus, the winning agency, the in-depth pitch immersion process left them “hungry” and motivated for more. This way of working laid the foundation of a collaborative approach with the agency partner, providing a real springboard to the kick-off point, they felt they could really ‘hit the ground running’ once appointed more than in any pitch situation before.

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It also meant a wider agency team being involved with the business – a business that did not only have a “face” through its brand manager or the marketing department but provided touch-points across commercial, contract, distribution, communications and procurement departments.

What then are the key stages needed for the perfect pitch?
1. The agency and the client getting to know each other as people!
2. Preparing for the brief (not just sending a brief out) – the immersion event and process
3. The agency response and interaction: both creative and strategic.

Benefits of an immersive approach

• Provides plentiful two way evaluation moments
• This approach and method of selecting the winning agency is robust. It is an efficient and effective way of running a pitch, helping develop a clear understanding of an agency, its people and its culture.
• Every single moment and intervention can be rated and banked, resulting in a solid client decision. It provides evidence at every step of the agency behaviour.
• It complements the client’s ‘gut’ feeling, increasing the confidence in hiring the right agency.

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By Sonoo Singh on behalf of ISBA/IPA



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