Agencies New Business

Pitching is the principal cause of burnout at ad agencies


By Sam Bradley, Journalist

September 4, 2023 | 6 min read

Over 10% said they or a colleague had been medically signed off because of stress relating to pitching.

A business presentation

Half of 1,000 agency professionals surveyed said pitching was a cause of burnout / Unsplash

50% of new business professionals at ad agencies say they’ve experienced burnout as a result of the pitching process, according to a new survey.

From a sample of over 1,000 new business staffers located in the US and UK, 11% said that they, or a colleague, had been medically signed off work or left a company altogether due to the stress of taking part in the pitching process. 17% said they’d had to take annual leave to recover following a pitch.

Sarah Kiefer, chief marketing officer of Pitch, said that “stress and burnout are massive contributors to staff turnover rates, so leaders in the marketing sector need to assess if their approach to winning business is sustainable.”

Pitching is often cited as one of the primary sources of stress for workers in the advertising industry. The survey found that 35% said the stress of creating presentations with colleagues was particularly acute, while 69% said that colleagues changing pitches had caused them additional strain.

Kiefer said that companies could “no longer afford to ignore the toll the pitch process takes on employee welfare.”

Censuswide conducted the survey in June on behalf of Pitch, a developer of presentation software. The poll is not the first time this issue has been identified within the advertising industry. A MediaSense survey of 100 media agency leaders published in May found that 54% believed pitching had a detrimental impact on the mental health of their colleagues. 64% said pitching corroded the working culture of their agency.

Furthermore, the All In census, a UK survey conducted by industry charity Nabs – also published in May – found that a third of agency workers considered themselves under significant stress, with 20% predicting they would aim to leave their current role for a new position within 12 months.

‘Emotional support’, including mental health concerns, is the top reason given for calls made to Nabs’ emergency advice hotline; the number of people calling Nabs’ support team rose 47% between 2022 and this April. The Institute for Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) introduced a voluntary agreement, the Pitch Positive Pledge, last year in response to concerns about the strain pitching puts on agency workers.

The survey also found agency workers enthusiastic about the potential for hybrid and remote pitching. Seven in 10 said they believed remote pitching had opened up new commercial opportunities for their agency, while 71% said that hybrid pitching enabled them to bat for a larger number of potential clients.

However, most acknowledged that remote pitching was harder on staff. 61% stated that it was more difficult to win business remotely than face-to-face, while 80% said remote pitching put a greater emphasis on elements such as the final presentation.

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Kiefer warned against the impact upon staff of increasing the number of pitches agencies choose to compete in.

“Feeling bullish and being able to uncover opportunities isn’t enough,” she said. “Teams need to have the right processes and tools in place to convert those opportunities into wins without an undue toll. The conventional model of pitching has been turned upside-down, and it’s clear some teams have adapted better than others.”

Agencies New Business

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