Traditionally, advertising agencies have always wanted to be either first or last in a competitive pitch situation fearing that they may be forgotten otherwise by the client, but, in our view, position in the pitch order does not matter. As long as the various pitches take place over a maximum of two days, there is no danger of client becoming confused about the various attributes of the presenting agencies.
Over the years we have noticed that agencies have a tendency to focus on what their competitors might or might not be saying during a pitch as opposed to remaining focused on their own work. We believe that agencies should curb any tendency to make comments about other agencies to client as such comments may be inappropriate and therefore not appreciated by the client.
We recommend that agencies should rather focus on their own thoughts regarding their key competitive differentiators as it is those factors which will set them apart and give them a winning edge in a pitch situation.
Here are a few pointers that will help agencies to communicate their competitive edge.
Agencies need to avoid gimmicks or contrived situations. Clients are often very uncomfortable in situations which may be "over the top"
Proposals must be well rehearsed and presented by the team who will be working on the account if awarded
Good presentations skills definitely make a difference. Slides need to be clear and concise. Do not read the slides out, summarise them
Give a budget and refrain from giving hourly rates if possible. Always rather try and quote on scope of work
Timing and implementation of a campaign should be included. Clients feel confident when agencies present timing plans and schedules
It is worthwhile for an agency to indicate their BEE Level and to show commitment to transformation, even if this factor is not asked for in a pitch situation
Include measurements for success of a campaign; demonstrate that results are important to you as an agency. These results must relate to client sales or market share ideally
Look for ways to save time during a presentation and always allow time for questions. These questions could come from either client or agency
Show real results through case studies which can demonstrate both creativity and real commercial return on investment
In our view, focusing on the agency's competitive edge is far more beneficial to an agency that worrying about which position they may be placed in the pitch order. Clients do not forget excellence no matter how complex a pitch process may be.
Johanna McDowell counsels clients and agencies around expectations in the advertising, marketing process. She is CEO of the Independent Agency Search and Selection Company (IAS), a division of black-owned marketing services group Mazole Holdings. Contact Johanna on tel +27 (0)11 462 3750, email her at and follow her on Twitter at @jomcdowell.
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