CRM – complex by its very nature differs considerably from traditional channels, but it is a business strategy for starters. Applying the same pitch processes, principles and briefing practices as other Comms disciplines does not necessarily deliver the best results. In this session Liz Barnsdale, Managing Director, AIS and David Yates, PlanningDirector, Elvis – both leading CRM specialists – talked the recurring theme of complexity around CRM and the lack of shared language and shared understanding, leading them to the exploration and creation of a simplified CRM briefing structure.


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Since 2007 we have been  working with our clients  on an improved and more effective way  of selecting their strategic and creative advertising agencies. The Strategic Workshop approach has provided agencies and our clients with a methodology for really being able to assess each other and evaluate more effectively how well they would work together.

Unlike the traditional creative pitch approach or as some call it the “creative beauty parade” where you only get to see the outcome to the brief you provided,  the strategic workshop approach really lets you test drive the agency before you make a choice.

The strategic workshop approach differs from the typical creative brief in that when a shortlist of agencies is decided, instead of providing a creative brief for the agency to develop recommendations, the agencies  are provided with a strategic problem / opportunity and the  client then  undertakes  a full strategy planning day with each agency. During the strategy workshop the marketing team work with the agency using the agencies own strategic planning process to develop a solution.

The benefits of the Strategy Workshops are:

1.       It allows the marketing team to work with the agency to discover how well they work together and see the process unfold before them.

2.       It allows the marketing team to see how and who in the agency drive the process and insights (often marketers can be left wondering who worked on the idea as in the traditional process this is hidden).

3.       The marketers get to work with three agencies on a problem or project that is important to them.

4.       It takes no more time than the traditional process once you account for briefings, question and answer sessions and the final presentations.

5.       Often the strategy and the concepts are more suitable due to the fact they are effectively co-created as will be the case when appointed.

6.       Marketers report being able to make more informed decisions on agency best fit.

Both marketers and the agencies  that have used the Strategy Workshop process report better and more sustainable outcomes. Even the agencies that are unsuccessful find the process more open and transparent.

What do marketers and agencies say:

Marketer Testimonial

Agency Testimonial

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Matt Williams of WCRS outlines Robin’s top tips:

As you’d expect from a man described on the night as ‘one of the most energetic people in the industry’, Robin affirmed that enthusiasm is still the most important asset to have as an agency approaching a pitch.

The quality of WCRS, he explained, was its ability to show gusto and relentless fervour that ensures that results will eventually come.

Appropriately, one of WCRS’ most recent ad campaigns was cited as a great example of this in action. In winning the Safestore ad business – a pitch against a number of other high profile agencies – WCRS forced the win by returning to the client on numerous occasions with new and exciting ideas. The passion and commitment to this cause ensured that not only did WCRS win the account, but the final work devised in the pitch was the same work that broke on TV just a month after the agency’s appointment.

But before WCRS bask in all the glory, Robin also cited that this was only made possible thanks to a brave Safestore client. This was someone who avoided the research process and made a decision based on his gut feel of how the work would do. Too often, Robin said, clients go with process and research rather than gut instinct, and it results in weaker work.

To read the full post, click here.

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Daren Kay, Executive Creative Director of TMW talks about his main take-outs from the IPA event, Pitching Legends: An evening with Robin Wight and Claire Beale.

 Aside from the obvious affection held for him by colleagues young – and not so – in the audience, Robin talked unapologetically and candidly on the night’s subject; Pitching Legends. On the issue of pitch-winning tag-lines for example, Robin talked articulately about respecting brand archaeology and heritage. Or to put it another way, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’ Not even in a  pitch. Something that led him to recommend BMW use the same line in the UK (The Ultimate Driving Machine) that the company already used in the US. He also praised Adam & Eve for keeping the WCRS line for Phones4U in their latest campaign. Also, he was positively thrilled with the re-vamped WCRS Churchill ad in which the dog is driven around town by Martin Clunes to the tune of Bonnie Tyler’s ‘I need a hero’. At the end, it is Martin not Churchill who has the famous ‘Oh yes’ line. Refreshing, funny, but heritage in tact.

To read the rest of Daren’s blog post, click here.

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When it comes to pitching, what do clients expect from agencies and what do agencies expect from clients?

This was the subject of last Thursday’s IPA Client-Agency Swap Shop event, where three of the UK’s top marketers posed as agency executives, whilst two of the UK’s top agency CEOs were put in the shoes of the client. Quite simply, it was an evening set for ‘get your own back’, ‘see how we feel’ and pure ‘admiration and appreciation for what the other side has to contend with’.

Hosted by IPA Director General, Paul Bainsfair, the client panel (including Simon Tuckey, Commercial Director, British Basketball; Ali Jones, Brand Director, M&S; and David Sinfield, Marketing Director, Majestic Wines), and the agency panel, (including Chris Macdonald, McCann London and Steve Hatch, CEO, MEC) were set questions by the esteemed Jeremy Bullmore who really put them through their paces to find out some key nuggets…

1) If you’re not on a pitch long list and you don’t know the client, what do you do? (Question posed to client panel as if they were agencies…)

There were suggestions of Linkedin and Google searches with a quote from Simon Tuckey that “90% of positions are filled because somebody knows somebody”. It’s all about connections. Use them. This could even be talking to someone you and the client mutually know and ask your contact to make that introduction to the prospect.

2) Do I put my new business A team in the pitch room vs the team who would actually work on the business? (Question posted to agency panel as if they were clients…)

A great suggestion came from Chris MacDonald of putting in place a system of feedback over the first 3-6 months. If the agency aren’t delivering on their promises, you have at least agreed from the outset on your client expectations. The agency needs to meet these, or they’re out. Firm, but fair.

Steve’s approach was focused more on references. Not just a generic reference from other clients but actually “what is it like to go on a journey with these people?”

Both responses equally plausible and worth noting!

3) Do you mind your agency account teams working on other business in addition to yours? (Question posed to clients as if they were agencies)

Some rather enlightening answers came for this for those in agencies who work on an account. Ali from M&S firmly supports her agency account teams working on pieces of business in addition to her own: “You want different things over the account life cycle.”

Both Ali and Simon would in fact “be concerned if people weren’t experiencing working on other accounts”. Good for us to know. If only all clients felt the same way.

One phrase that came up regularly from our panel, but was first uttered by Simon: “suck it up”. Sometimes you just need to accept a situation and move on if you can’t do anything about it. Again, firm but fair.

4) How do you prove the ROI on social media? (Question posed to agency panel)

Some top tips on this hot topic from Steve at media agency, MEC, on how to approach the client:

1. start with flattery and take the client for a spot of lunch
2. present them with work that you admire (but not from the same category as your client)
3. do a bit of buzz monitoring
4. don’t call it ‘Social Media’, in fact call it a ‘Customer Retention Strategy’
5. don’t start with media, start with the idea!

Whilst Chris agreed with this strategy, he puts it quite simply: “actually use the work”.

Simon chipped in with his ‘actual’ client hat on and suggested “give them a sense of what’s quantifiably achievable”.

5) Have you ever been told you’re not strategic enough in your pitch despite the client prospect loving your work? (Question posed to client panel)

David from Majestic Wines, believes that as an agency “you’ve got to fight really hard to get on the list…you’ve got to do something quite bold and exciting.” It’s all about catching the client’s attention and getting a meeting in the diary with the client to discuss their concerns in more detail. You need to get under the skin of it.

Ali adds “you need to understand what strategy the client wants, for example is it actually the creative idea the client wants?” A good piece of advice “look at who else is on the list to see how strategic the competition is!”

6) The pitching Marketing Director and the Procurement Officer have equal say in the agency appointment; however, the Marketing Director favours the agency that isn’t necessarily the most ‘cost efficient’. What do you decide to do? (Question posed to agencies as if they were clients…)

The dreaded ‘P’ word – Procurement…

It seemed that both Chris and Steve’s feelings on the matter mirrored our ‘actual’ client panel’s opinion: procurement and fees should be negotiated AFTER an agency has presented the strategic and creative pitch. That way, the client’s marketing team ensures they appoint the agency who can best service their needs.

As Ali put it “it’s the client’s responsibility to agree with procurement on their involvement at the beginning of the process.” And Simon, “the Marketing Director is making the decision not procurement…it’s important to fully deliver the best marketing.”

7) Have you ever had to let a slightly upstart young account exec go, to find 10 years down the line they are now not only client-side but Marketing Director for a big FMCG company which has just come up for pitch? As the agency wanting to get on that pitch list, what do you do? (Question posed to clients as if they were agencies…)

On the whole, this was met with a resounding – turn a negative into a positive. Remember, that upstart has now become a successful client in a relatively short space of time. Getting rid of them has done them some good. So, congratulate them (obviously without sounding condescending) and test the water. See if they would be willing to give you a chance now the shoe is on the other foot. As David said “say ‘you’ve done well’ and take it from there…”

Moral of the story, as put by Simon, is “make sure you always fire someone well.” After all, you never know how or when your paths might cross again.

8 ) Team vs Strategy vs Creative – what matters most?
This time, there wasn’t such a unified decision across the panel. There were varying opinions on what is important when judging a pitch scenario. What they could agree on though was that it is a heart vs head decision. As Ali put it “I’ve always felt it”. So it needs to be the right mix of all three to ensure you have faith in the whole ‘package’.

9) This time, as an agency, you have been invited to celebrate 10 years of working with your client when an important pitch meeting is scheduled for that same day. What do you do?
This final question of the evening resulted in some interesting responses. Some options included:
– throw money at it and hire a helicopter
– yes, throw money at it but suggest a big day out paid for by the agency to celebrate the 10 years so you can make the pitch
– be honest with your existing client, they will understand (or will they?)

Summing up:
The main theme that rang true throughout the evening is relationships. If you have a good one it eases the pain in those difficult moments. But, just because you have a good relationship doesn’t mean you can get away with anything. So, use it wisely!

In the words of the panel, if you can’t achieve the results you’re after – “suck it up!”

Ken Mulligan
Head of New Business
EuroRSCG London

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On the 20th October, we held the first ever Client/Agency Swap Shop. The advertising equivalent of ‘Freaky Friday’, clients and agencies swapped roles for the night to answer Jeremy Bullmore’s questions on the art of pitching.

Scroll through to find out what Paul Bainsfair, Steve Hatch, Ali Jones, Chris Macdonald, David Sinfield & Simon Tuckey would do if the shoe was on the other foot!

To find out more about the speakers, you can read their biographies here.

(Update: We recommend viewing the slideshow using Firefox. If you don’t have Firefox, you can view the story here)

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