In this week's Ditch the Pitch, The Drum speaks to creative agency Studio Blvd, global chief strategy officer, Alistair Green on how agencies should show that they want to collaborate and be realistic with clients and how the management team are sometimes the wrong people to be pitching.
What was the hardest pitch you have ever done?
The hardest pitch I ever lead was for River Island when I was head of strategy at media agency Mindshare. They had never advertised or used paid media before so there were a lot of unknowns.
Was it successful?
Yes, we won and many years later River Island is again my client at creative agency Studio Blvd. Longstanding relationships really pay-off. River Island is now a leader in its category and is one of the only high street fashion brands that stand for something beyond fashion that is meaningful and culturally relevant.
What did you learn from it?
Pitching is first and foremost about putting the right people in the room. The management team are sometimes the wrong people. Also, some clients aren't a fan of the showman, the person who takes up all the air in the room. As well as that, you're more likely to win a client's business if you show willingness to collaborate and be pragmatic rather than stand up at the front of the room and pontificate about your brilliant idea.
Has the pitch process become far too complicated?
I think for big agencies it is complicated. They make it complicated and global clients do too. Now that I am at a smaller agency it is relatively straight forward. We put together a pitch team and avoid getting unnecessary people involved.
Is it time to ditch ‘request for information’ documents (RFIs) or even the ‘chemistry meetings?
If we treated the RFI like an administrative form, which is how I view it, I think it wouldn't be such a time waster. Some agencies treat it like the pitch document. Chemistry meetings are a good idea. Agencies should feel confident enough to make them about people and initial thoughts and observations versus treating it like a pitch, so should clients. I've been a part of pitches where we had won at the chemistry stage, because it boiled down to the right people on the same wavelength as the client.
Is taking part in a pitch always a logically financially viable process these days?
You need to weigh it up. Is the pain worth the gain? It's much harder for small agencies as big agencies have the numbers and the cash to make it viable. I think clients should also be brave enough to approach an agency who they admire for their work versus always feel the need to call a pitch.
As an industry are we guilty of pitching ourselves to the ground?
If we accept that pitching is primarily about people, then we shouldn't have to pitch ourselves into the ground. Put the right people in the room, show willingness to work with the client and demonstrate clever thinking and creative work that will stand out and mean something to consumers. Job done. We do it on existing business, we don't have to make it a gargantuan task in a pitch situation.
Green will attend Pitch Perfect on 13 September, with River Island's, customer director Josie Cartridge to talk about the challenges that led to the powerful campaign celebrating diversity in its Labels For Clothes Campaign.
This event focuses on helping agencies win new business. Check out the website for more information and to purchase tickets.
Partner of the event is BD100, with Digitas sponsoring.