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Agencies Agency Models Reinventing the Pitch

How Alma DDB’s 15-30-60 no pitch new business tactic brought it new work with Opendoor

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By Sam Bradley | Senior Reporter

November 24, 2023 | 10 min read

We explore how one agency brought in a major new account with a new method but without a pitch.

A bedroom in a house being dressed for viewing by homebuyers

Almda created two campaigns for Opendoor targeting the over-55s. / Opendoor

Pitching, as we know, costs agencies too much in time and cash. For some agencies, there’s an additional problem – getting invited on to a longlist in the first place.

DDB agency Alma, primarily known for producing work that engaged with Hispanic audiences in the US, wanted to expand further into ‘general market’ briefs. But according to Ana Bermudez, managing director, it wasn’t being invited into the room.

“We’re not always considered for work that is more general market. That’s been changing, but I felt like we needed a new approach,” she says.

She calls her new means of getting time with CMOs and marketers the ‘15-30-60’ method. It’s not that complicated: a 15-minute chat, followed by a half-hour, and finally followed by an hour-long meeting.

The approach has begun to pay dividends. Bermudez credits it with the agency’s recent work for Opendoor, a real estate brand.

“I reached out to the CMO and asked for those 15 minutes,” Bermudez says. “The mission, the objectives of those 15 minutes is I want to understand what keeps them up at night. What their big challenges are for that brand and for that business.”

In the case of Opendoor, it wasn’t hard to work out what might have been keeping CMO David Corns from sleep. The US housing market is the worst it’s been “for decades,” says Bermudez. “It’s a pretty challenging place to be.”

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That first meeting is a one-to-one meeting between Bermudez and her lead. It requires research, and an initial in – ideally provided by the agency’s previous work – but primarily it’s a getting-to-know-you session.

“You need to have a base level of having done great work, having great talent… they’re going to be intrigued and want to get on the phone with you,” she says.

The follow-up meeting lasts 30 minutes and a wider cast, including Alma strategists and creatives. Bermudez says it’s principally a creds session: “I go in and tell them a little bit about us and talk about credentials, but quickly turn the conversation about them and about their challenges.”

In the case of Opendoor, Bermudez and her team identified an under-served audience segment – home sellers over the age of 55 – and brought the brand this insight. “With interest rates at almost 8%, the only people that would consider selling their homes are the ones that have already paid them off and are looking to downsize,” says Bermudez.

Turns out, Opendoor had spotted the same opportunity – and not known how to meet it. “So, they were really intrigued by this agency just coming in and saying ‘We think you should do this’.”

“Alma took an impressive audience-first approach. They demonstrated a strategic understanding of the behaviors of homebuyers in this unique macro environment, and these insights fueled great ideas by the alma creative team. They moved quickly to produce and capture the moment, and we’re excited to see these campaigns come to life,” adds Corns.

The final piece was an hour-long meeting. Alma used it as a chance to pitch a full campaign project, ‘Easier to Downsize’. It did the trick. “They weren’t even looking for an agency,” says Bermudez, but three months after that third meeting, the work was in market generating results for the brand.

“We’re very excited about the partnership. And it saved us a pitch. It’s about showing value to clients,” she adds. The agency followed it up with a later campaign, ‘Empty Nest for Sale’.

The advantage of the approach isn’t only in the dodged pitch, or the business generated from nowhere. More informal business-seeking can also yield that kind of result (and Bermudez is keen to point out that Alma’s chief executive officer Isaac Mizrahi has been practicing something similar for years). But if a client really doesn’t want a new agency or has no appetite for further marketing work, Alma will only have spent 15 minutes and a little prep time.

And successful processes get the agency in the door for future work. A project that generates results is going to put Alma near the front of the line for longer-term, more involved relationships. “You're already in the building, and they already know what you can do. You’re solving their business problems, so if at any point in for an AR, I would hope to be considered,” she says.

Agencies Agency Models Reinventing the Pitch

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