Agencies Business Leadership New Business

The 70 brands and agencies promising to stop bad pitching behavior


By Jennifer Faull | Deputy Editor

May 10, 2022 | 6 min read

A full list of the brands and agencies vowing to improve the pitch process has been released. Here’s what you need to know.

Pitch Process

The competitive pitch process can take its toll on mental health / Adobe

The IPA and ISBA joined forces earlier this year to create the Pitch Positive Pledge with the aim of improving the often mentally and physically brutal process of new business pitches for staff.

The initiative was announced in response to the mounting reports of increased stress and anxiety within the advertising industry. Though there are many causes, it is most acutely felt during new business pitching.

Post-pandemic, pitching is happening more frequently, and with hybrid working it’s now more complex and increasingly costly. And the impact on the individual is worse than ever, being cited as a contributing factor to burn-out and mental health problems. In short, it’s an area that has been in need of improvement for decades.

What are they promising?

The Pledge, then, aims to make the pitching process more intentional, accountable and responsible for both advertisers and agencies. In doing so, it aims to drive better outcomes including more transparency and better mental wellbeing, resulting in better quality work, fewer costs and less wastage.

This is a call for a change in behavior across the industry. By signing up to the Pledge, agencies and clients are making a clear commitment to the positive mental health of their people,” said IPA president and VCCP international chairman Julian Douglas.

“In tandem, we hope it will lead to better wealth for their businesses by cutting down on unnecessary waste, in terms of resources, time and energy. This is our chance to really make a difference for the benefit of our current industry employees and for future generations for whom we hope conditions will be fairer and even more enjoyable.”

The Pitch Positive Pledge

· Be positive a pitch is required (before a pitch)

The advertiser will be positive a pitch is necessary and will provide a written statement clearly setting out why.

· Run a positive pitch (during a pitch)

The advertiser will consider the implications of the requirements it asks the agency to fulfill during the pitch. Meanwhile, the agency will consider both the interest of their client and the wellbeing of their people throughout the process.

· Provide a positive resolution (after a pitch)

Win or lose, the advertiser will inform the agency of the pitch outcome directly and provide feedback on their performance. Meanwhile for agencies, win or lose, they will accept the client’s decision and provide feedback on how well their team handled the pitch and adhered to the Pledge.

What brands and agencies have signed up?

At launch over 70 companies have already pledged their commitment. Here’s the full list.

Agency signatories: Above+Beyond, ASG & Partners, Cogent, Dentsu UK&I, McCann Manchester, Republic of Media, St Luke’s, The Beyond Collective, The7stars, Frontier, Total Media, Wunderman Thompson, Yonder Media, VCCP, Starcom, Drummond Central, Forever Beta, OMD UK, OMG Unite, PHD UK, MG OMD, Hearts & Science, Drum, Fuse, Unite, Portas, PWC, Mother and Publicis Groupe UK agencies including BBH, Leo Burnett, Saatchi & Saatchi, Publicis.Poke, Starcom, Zenith, Spark Foundry, Digitas, Octopus Group and Prodigious

Advertisers: Boots, Barclays, British Gas, DiDi, First Direct, Nationwide Building Society, NatWest, Nestlé, Samsung, Santander, Specsavers, Tui, Virgin Media O2 and White Claw

Intermediaries: AAR, Aperto Partnership, Creativebrief, Ebiquity, Hamilton Associates, Ingenuity, MediaSense, PWC, Steve Kershaw, ID Comms, The Observatory and TrinityP3.

Toby Horry is group brand and content director at travel brand Tui. He’s also worked agency side, including stints at Dare and AMVBBDO. Having been both the client and agency, he’s familiar with how much physical and mental work goes into pitches.

“I’ve had very positive and very negative experiences over the years. I think the Pitch Positive Pledge is a great initiative that codifies best practice on both sides and I’m delighted to sign Tui up,” he said.

Fellow signatory Charlie Martyn, global client development director at Wunderman Thompson, said at its worst pitching can be hugely inefficient and costly. “Particularly to our main asset: our people. The Pitch Positive Pledge is a great opportunity to set a new standard that lays the foundations for a healthy, fruitful and sustainable partnership,” he continued. “It’s better for the work, better for our clients and, above all, better for our people.”

Measuring its impact

To measure if it’s working, the IPA and ISBA will be commissioning an industry survey of agencies and clients to benchmark current pitching activity. Questions will address the areas of mental health, wastage, costs and effectiveness, and it will be run again in a year’s time to chart progress.

Pitch Positive Pledge will also be regularly reviewed by the IPA and ISBA, and a progress update will be provided at the Renew conference in January 2023.

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