Reinventing the pitch: how Creature shows off during initial RFIs
We continue our series examining how agencies are approaching the pitch process anew by looking at how creative shop Creature approaches the initial creds/RFI stage.
Creature once sent a prospective client pots of local honey in response to their initial credentials request / Unsplash
Most pitches start the same way. Once a brand’s team has decided to start shopping around they, or an intermediary such as R3 or Observatory, will dispatch an invitation to agencies they think are up to the task.
Depending on the company, that might be a straightforward request for basic capabilities and services offered, as well as examples of recent work. Or, there’ll be a more involved brief relating to a specific challenge the business is facing. Sometimes, there’ll be a questionnaire from the brand team, asking prospective agencies their perspectives on specific issues.
It’s then up to the agencies invited in to respond. According to Dan Cullen-Shute, co-founder and chief executive of Creature, initial approaches can “vary hugely,” but requests for information (RFIs) are intentionally “uniform”, the better for clients to filter out potential duds.
At that stage of the process, an agency like Creature might be up against over a dozen competitors. They use an RFI to “get creative,” he says.
“I quite enjoy it. It’s the old ‘we have no money, we will have to think’ thing. The restrictions are really tight, you have to get creative. An approach to a pitch is every bit of it is as fun or as arduous as you choose to make it.”
In Cullen-Shute’s experience, the process can differ depending on whether a brand is running a review or an intermediary has been brought in. “Some intermediaries will pride themselves on providing some flexibility, others not. Oystercatchers don’t have a pro-forma. Sometimes there won’t even be a request for proposal,” he explains. “Both approaches make sense – it’s less about us at that point and more about working out what they want.”
The team employs design tricks and inventive copy to “show off a bit, and try and stick out in front of everybody.”
Though the norm since Covid is to deliver responses digitally, he says physical media sometimes offers a medium for showmanship. “In the past, we've kind of made bingo cards for a [bingo brand] JackpotJoy pitch. Or one time we made a cocktail up for a non-alcoholic drinks brand, using the bees we used to have on our roof. With the RFI, we sent in three boxes, each with a jar of honey with a recipe.
“I really loved that opportunity to be a bit crafty, in both senses. Showing how much the craft matters. It’s trickier nowadays because it’s almost always done electronically, so it has to be a PDF. But even then there are ways of bringing it to life.”
The number of competing agencies involved means that the RFI stage of a pitch can be a free-for-all. But it’s an opportunity for a team to stand out. And everybody has the same window of opportunity. “If you view every RFI as one thing that may come to nothing, it's quite nice to turn it into something good in and of itself,” Cullen-Shute says.
“How much more interesting, how much more personalized, how much better can you make it?”