Agencies Agency Culture Pitching

Mother and TBWA are giving profits from new clients to charity... if they skip pitches


By Sam Bradley, Journalist

June 14, 2022 | 6 min read

London boutique agency Mother has launched a new initiative encouraging clients to forgo the expensive and exhausting pitch process in return for investments with select charity partners.


Mother has offered clients the chance to invest in charities, if they help dismantle the pitching system / Mother

The company has floated ’Pitch It Forward,’ an offer to invest the first year profits from clients that appoint the agency without a pitch into not-for-profit organizations that work in the creative sector.

Fellow agency TBWA\London has announced it will also join Mother in adopting the initiative; the agency’s leaders are inviting other businesses to do the same.

“After 25 years of pitching at Mother, deep down – no matter how hungry we are for it – we know the creative advertising pitch process is a time-consuming and sadly sometimes wasteful exercise,“ says Chris Gallery, partner at Mother London.

“The best work always comes out of strong relationships with clients, built on shared values, ambition and purpose. So why don’t we aim to build these strong relationships – and the basis for a successful partnership – earlier in the pitch process?“

Why is Mother changing its pitch process?

The pitch process has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months for its impact on staff and the outright business costs associated with new business pitching. Agencies often spend months of business time working on new creative, on spec, for clients shopping around – representing a significant investment that might go down the pan if the agency isn't successful. The impact on staff, meanwhile, comes in the form of longer-than-usual working hours, stress and anxiety.

Earlier this year, the Institute for Practitioners in Marketing (IPA) released the Pitch Positive Pledge, a voluntary scheme that holds agencies and brands to a less wasteful and less stressful process.

Gallery says that as well as encouraging clients to move away from wasteful pitching practices, Mother hopes to funnel more cash into charities and not-for-profit organizations in the sector.

”Can we set a better example for how we should be doing pitches? So that’s one side of this,” he explains. ”The other side of that is, by making a better pitch process for us, what if we can do something positive for the outside world as well? For our people, it can save time and energy and put it into the right places – with clients – and also, for clients and us, we can use that time to do some good in the world.”

On adopting the policy at her agency, Larissa Vince, chief executive officer of TBWA\London told The Drum: “Pitch It Forward goes to the heart of many of the issues we’re all facing at creative agencies. It puts renewed emphasis on building a brighter future, whilst reducing the pitch stress on our teams and giving clients the strong relationships they need quicker into the new business process. It really is a win/win/win. We’re proud to join Mother in adopting these principles and hope that together we can make a positive difference.”

Though Gallery says Mother has a ”healthy relationship with how we choose pitches and how we do pitches,” he admits that ”inevitably, pitching does ask more of people sometimes. There are the classics – late nights – and we do try to manage that. We’re always looking for better ways.

”Everybody in the industry would acknowledge that, over the last five years, it’s become a wild west out there. We might never change that, but we can try and say that there’s another way of doing it.”

What does the offer mean for clients?

In place of the classic pitch process, the agency is inviting clients to use chemistry meetings as the principal deciding factor. ”Nine out of 10 times our clients pick agencies from a chemistry meeting or have an instinct of who the right agency would be for them from a chemistry meeting,” he says.

That doesn’t mean Mother will be trading entirely on the personalities and charm of its staff, though. Gallery says: ”Alongside a chemistry meeting, we’ll provide a very thorough response document that outlines us as a company and our case studies and how our finances would break down ... the things procurement needs to see.”

Mother itself won’t be sacrificing huge amounts, he notes, because most of the profits from the first year of a client relationship are wiped out by the high costs of a successful pitch. ”We’re going to spend our first year trying to recoup the pitch time investment that we’ve put in anyway. So all we’re doing is really offsetting that,” he adds.

Across Mother’s worldwide offices there are dozens of candidate organizations, though in the UK potential partners could include ad schools such as Brixton Finishing School. Tom Wong, Mother’s head of fame, says: ”It really depends on what the client and we would want to get out of it. For example, if we worked with a company whose operations were in developing nations, that could be a project that we sponsor. There are no rules.”

Mother will still compete in pitches where clients demand the traditional route, he adds, but Pitch It Forward will act as an incentive to take an alternate route.

Gallery says the agency was appointed without a pitch twice by clients in the last year, but it’s unclear how much cash the agency will invest in this way, since any investment would be proportionate to the budget of a new client.

”If this happens once or twice, again, over the next 12 months, and in more places around the world, then that means more good things happening.”

This article was last updated June 15.

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