Agencies Agency Leadership Pitch

How to swerve the canceled pitch: A new report from The Drum


By Niki McMorrough, Director of memberships

November 23, 2023 | 4 min read

A third of marketing agency pitches are canceled. Brands don’t realize how costly this is. That’s why The Drum has released a new report with guidance on picking the right pitches and pushing back.

An arrow in a field of arrows

Canceled pitches: Under-recognized enemy of good marketing? / Adobe stock

According to JFDI and Opinium’s yearly new business barometer, consistently over the last six years, a third of all marketing agency pitches were canceled. The PM Society says that the average agency spends £43,500 (about $53,000) on a single pitch. That’s a lot of waste in an ecosystem where, according to Forrester, agencies spend $12bn a year on pitching.

The result is a need for agencies to win new business without falling foul of the process. But it’s time to stop blaming the industry and take responsibility for educating the client, “for they know not what they do”.

Even after a lifetime as a brand marketer asking agencies to pitch for work, I had no idea that agencies were spending so much on pitches (and sometimes it’s much, much more than that number above). In my brand-side career, not a single agency ever questioned the need for a pitch or pushed back on the procurement process. In fact, they were vying for our attention. It never occurred to me that their investment in a pitch was worth more than, say, £2,000.

But when I found myself responsible for the pitching process at a marketing agency, I was horrified to discover the flaws in the system. Something had to be done to right the wrongs of the industry.

Now, as director of memberships at The Drum, I want to address this industry imbalance. With a little help from The Drum Network members and industry experts, I’ve written a guide on how to win the hearts and minds of procurement and marketing managers, without losing all your profits in the process.

In my role as a new business developer, I read every book on sales, pitching and the psychology of new business. I developed my own process that actually worked (for me). That, bolstered by input from pitch experts and both brand- and agency-side marketers, is the basis of this practical guide.

The guide includes downloadable templates on how to respond to incoming pitches and conduct yourself in the new business negotiations.

“We are no longer built the same because not pitching cancels out so much waste,” said Julie Cohen, chief executive at agency Across the Pond. ”We still spend time converting new clients, but our efforts are much more intentional.

You can read the full report on how to swerve the canceled pitch now.

Agencies Agency Leadership Pitch

More from Agencies

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +