Real ad agencies take the veil off the new-business-review process and it isn’t pretty.
“The Pitch”, is a new reality show featuring two agencies, McKinney and WDCW, who are competing for a Subway assignment. The new business pitch is the way agencies win most of their business and grow. The sneak peaks of The Pitch is an edited version of the creative process of both agencies that builds toward the pitch and then declaration of the winner.
Subway ends up choosing McKinney and CMO describes how he and his marketing team reached their decision. The program hopes to capitalize on the popularity of Mad Men with a “reality TV” version that will premiere following an episode of Mad Men.
Neil Genzlinger in his blistering New York Times article says,
“The ideas that multiple, fully clothed teams at the two agencies produce may leave you wondering why it takes so many people to come up with relatively unexciting stuff. McKinney’s biggest inspiration isn’t even its own; it plucks some home-made rapper off YouTube.”
From an agency’s perspective, the show vividly displays the inequities of the free pitch process. Avi Dan, former New Business Director for three global agencies, Saatchi & Saatchi, Berlin Cameron United, and Euro RSCG stated in a recent Forbes article,
“The worse thing about pitching is that agencies give away for free their highest value product – their strategic thinking. Attempting to make up for the financial gamble that participating in a pitch entails, agencies try to make a profit off implementation work. The problem is that the implementation is often a commodity. It reduces the client-agency relationship to a more transactional level, of buyer and vendor. And as time marches on and agency margins drop, the cost of doing business for the agency goes up, putting further strain on the relationship. That can be directly traced to the willingness of agencies, unique among service providers, to give their product away for free.”
Both principals of the winning and losing agency shared their thoughts after reading Avi’s article:
“The only thing I take issue with is the notion that our highest value product is our strategic thinking. As much as we value strategy, it’s just a path to great work!
Short of dramatic changes to the anti-trust laws, there’s no way our industry can come together to battle the issues you outlined.
So your solution is the only viable choice: do as much as you can to qualify whether the prospect is worth pursuing, say no to those who aren’t and commit to win the ones you go after. It’s a formula that has worked well for us.”
Chairman & CEO
“Our agency was one of the competitor’s on last night’s peek of AMC’s “The Pitch.” I agree that the current pitch process is insidious. But the truth is this process won’t stop until all of the ad agencies in America unilaterally agree to stop giving their ideas away for free in hopes of gaining an advantage in a pitch. I spent my formative years at Ogilvy/New York and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners/SF. I know the game.
I also know that “The Pitch” is the picture you get when you edit dozens of hours of video footage into 42 minutes, not including commercial breaks. And that viewers want “drama.” The ad industry seems to be coming down a little hard on the show … we should all lighten up.”
Tracy Wong, Chairman, WDCW
The following fifteen agencies agreed to appear on ‘The Pitch’:
- Bandujo Advertising and Design
- Jones Advertising
- Muse Communications
- The Ad Store
- The Hive
The agency pitch process is long overdo for an overhaul. It is no surprise that a considerable number of agencies are venting their repressed anger through social media channels, after the airing of the sneak peek of The Pitch. The show vividly displays the inequities of the free pitch process and how it devalues our thinking.
For the small to mid-size agencies a “pitching for new business strategy” is certainly is not in their best interest. I invite you to read “Blair Enns: 12 Revolutionary Proclamations for Ad Agency New Business.”
What are your thoughts about the pitch process? What solutions do you suggest? Feel free to share your comments below.
You may also be interested in some of the following articles on ‘The Pitch’:
- What “The Pitch” Left Out: Why Agencies Get Hurt By An Upside Down Approach To New Business, Avi Dan, Forbes contributor and fomer global agency business development director
- The Real Reason The Big Ad Agencies Avoided AMC’s ‘The Pitch’, Will Burns, Forbes contributor and agency pitch consultant
- Interview with Tony Pace, Subway’s CMO, on their selection process: “Why They Won”
- Forbes contributor Will Burns interview: “The Pitch” Behind The Scenes: Tracy Wong, WDCW
- Tracy Wong shares Why WDCW Said “Yes” To AMC’s “The Pitch
- Getting Ad Agencies Into Reality TV, Stuart Elliot, New York Times advertising columnist
Check out and vote: Poll: Who Should’ve Won The Pitch
In case you missed it: Season 1 Sneak Preview: The Pitch