There’s a well-worn adage in pitch circles that the agency who most wants to win the pitch is the agency most likely to win the pitch. And the proof is in the pudding. In the past 12 months, I have seen time and again agencies driven by an insatiable hunger to win and brilliant talent pool at all levels delivering the extra intangible magic that makes the biggest difference on the day of final reckoning.
For decades, talent and determination have been the heady mix unlocking the unstoppable momentum of a pitch-winning idea. The right talent ensured insights were liberated, while determination ensured that no one was ever, ever allowed to stand in the way of making the best idea happen. Look no further than the outstanding work that Leo Burnett has consistently produced for McDonald’s, Adam&EveDDB for John Lewis or AMVBBDO for Guinness as evidence of this in action on a regular basis.
Little has interfered with this dynamic, including the advent of digital and the acceleration of mega-media pitches we’ve all seen in 2016.
But now it’s all change. Last week saw two significant announcements in the US – a deafening reality call to our industry. HP’s chief marketing officer Antonio Lucio mandated to its roster that all agencies must increase the number of women and minorities in key creative and strategic positions within 12 months. Second, Ann Simonds (CMO, General Mills) announced that agencies competing for the creative business must have creative departments staffed with at least 50 percent women and 20 percent people of colour. As Lucio succinctly said: "Including women and people of colour in key roles is not only a values issue, but a significant business imperative."
Clearly clients are taking matters into their own hands – demonstrating their determination to drive change to the talent pool that agencies hire from and forcing acceleration in the diversity of senior leader and junior hires alike.
The message from marketers couldn’t be any clearer to agency chiefs looking to land new business: it’s time to proactively find the new guard of talent to work with us or watch your opportunities to pitch shrink.
Despite this clarion call, I’d personally like to see our industry in the UK go a stage further. My hope is that people at every level of their agency career, not solely those in senior positions, proactively take the initiative and hunt out the diversity of talent that will push the limits of insights and ideas, to help their agencies win.
I hope people will follow the great examples set by groups like The Great British Diversity Experiment where, earlier this year, cross-agency staffers came together, unasked, to prove that diverse teams deliver better ideas. The result? Clear evidence that diversity allows people to be their authentic self, contribute more creatively and be more effective; coupled with this, a dramatic increase in the ability to create distinctive and powerful creative ideas that have their individual merits judged through the power of meritocracy versus cultural consensus.
The opportunities to challenge the traditional norm couldn’t be easier to make happen today. There are so many ways to do this. Collaborate with The Ideas Foundation or Modern Muse to find and inspire the next generation of talent; mentor and participate with NABS’ 100 Club, Pride AM, SheSays and Bloom; engage with Token Man; challenge every HR manager to include candidates from Creative Access on every job search; seek out Magnificent Generation and volunteer to join its Leaders’ Programmes to share experiences and show why our industry is one worthy of their students’ consideration.
In my view, the recent HP and General Mills announcements are simply the tip of a fast-approaching iceberg – and similar calls will be coming to more agencies pitching for business in the near future. Let’s all have the determination to take action now, proactively affect the talent pool and build the brightest future for our industry.
Richard Robinson is managing partner of Oystercatchers and a trustee and board member of The Ideas Foundation, Mentor for NABS 100 Club & Magnificent Generation, the only male mentor for SheSays, and enthusiastic advocate for Pride AM