Stefan Bradley, Research, Insight and Operations Director at The Art of New Business talks about the launch of the media pitch principles.



The IPA and ISBA’s Media Pitch Best Practice Principles were launched at the fifth event of the Good Pitch Week by Cormac Loughran, CMO of Aegis Media; Paul Phillips, MD of the AAR; Richard Woodford, Global Procurement Director – Media at GSK and Debbie Morrison, Director of Consultancy at ISBA. Attendees from all spheres flocked to the breakfast event: media agencies, client side marketers and procurement specialists were all itching to be involved in this refreshing and enlightening session.

In September 2012 clients, agencies, auditors and consultants met to debate whether the model for media pitching was fit for purpose. Following a good deal of forthright discussion a number of key issues were identified ranging from mammoth to minute, immediate to long term. The immediate, micro issues were identified as quick-yet-impactful issues to rectify. The recent IPA Pitch Monitor survey showed that only 64% of media agencies were satisfied with pitches they had been involved in, so clearly there is room for improvement. The result is 6 guiding principles that provide a blueprint for mutually beneficial outcomes and hopefully will improve satisfaction ratings by 10% by June 2014.


The Guidelines:

1. Respect is a two way street

  • Senior clients should be involved in the process consistently and from the start, not just at the final meeting
  • Agencies are given adequate time to explain what they can do
  • The cost of pitching for media agencies can be significant (estimated at £21.6m in total for the last year); to help build mutual respect, clients should consider some kind of monetary recognition or payment in kind
  • No one likes to have their time wasted: agencies that are off-pace should be disregarded early on
  • Agencies should be honest about their bandwidth and drop out if they have doubts about being able to deliver
  • Clients should have a cut-off point for pitches towards the end of the year – no one wants to work over Christmas because they have to respond to a brief in early January

2. Utilise the IPA/ISBA media agency Standard Information Template (SIT)

  • Agencies don’t like E-sourcing but it isn’t going away and use of the template is going to be made mandatory for IPA agencies and ISBA pitches
  • It took an Aegis apprentice, new to the industry, 1h 40m to complete the form so it shouldn’t be too much trouble for experienced media agencies who have all of the information to hand
  • The SIT will allow clients to rapidly develop their long list and agencies only need to update the form every 6 months
  • A word of caution – the questions on the template should be answered in a pithy manner – this isn’t the place for flowing prose


3. Clarity around required services

  • The services offered by media agencies are evolving rapidly so clients need to be clear about what’s in and what’s out of scope early on in the process to give agencies realistic remuneration proposals and recommendations.


4. Discovery meetings to evaluate relevant skills

  • Some media agency offerings are so extensive that they don’t lend themselves to a 2-hour show and tell. Clients should consider scheduling deep dives and discovery meetings around the things that matter so the agency can present their full toolkit
  • Media can be an incredibly complicated subject and many clients review their media agency only a few times in their career; agencies should try to understand client’s precise capabilities, share learnings and help nurture them through the process – all the while building mutual respect


5. Media pricing and contracts early in the selection process

  • Agencies hate E-auctions; clients should be up front if this is their preferred route
  • Deal with the money issues early in the process – get that elephant out of the room and move on to discuss other more important things like strategy, thinking and moving brands forward
  • Agencies need to articulate any ‘walk-away’ contractual clauses up front
  • Consider appointing consultants to help if there are skill gaps on either side e.g. related to developing KPIs or contract terms


6. Be clear about what it takes to win (and be forthcoming with feedback)

  • It’s only fair for clients to let agencies know what it takes to win. If it’s all about the price rather than the strategy, agencies that don’t want to play that game can save themselves the effort and walk away
  • Clients should share who the stakeholders are and what the judgement criteria are on the scorecard
  • For losing agencies, the only value for them is to know how they could improve their chances next time


These principles will get agencies and clients on their way to opening up dialogue and encouraging collaboration, while eliminating nasty surprises and waste from the process. Embedding the principles into your approach will breath a new lease of life into the media pitch process, make things easier for both sides and strengthen relationships. Let’s get cracking.

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