Research conducted by the Advertising Agency Register (AAR) showed that over 60% of clients were unhappy with their selected new agency, just three months after the pitch. 

In some of these cases this may have come about because the pitch process wasn’t structured to allow both parties to get to know each other well enough during the process. 

In some very recent research conducted by the PM Society, 70% of agencies stated that, although they talked on the phone, they only met the client once, face-to-face at the pitch.  The danger for clients is that the decision is based on ‘one big show’ (which is what a pitch is after all) and agencies are generally very good at putting on a show.

A better approach would be to meet each agency at least twice during the process.  Opportunities for an additional face-to-face meeting include a pitch briefing, the Q&A or an interim ‘work-in-progress’ meeting, prior to the pitch, to see the agency’s initial thinking, something that’s very common with consumer client pitches.  

Another option is to hold face-to-face credentials meetings to help you draw up a shortlist for the pitch.  This is also common with consumer client pitches where the client team will spend a day visiting several agencies to get a feel for the type of work they do and the approach they take.  Interestingly, in the PM Society research, 65% of agencies reported that no clients had visited their offices for any pitches in the last two years.  This is a missed opportunity.  So much can be learnt from going in and getting a feel for the culture of company.  In a recent pitch, a major pharma company ranked a number of agencies based on reviewing their websites and written creds submissions.  These rankings were significantly revised after going into their offices and meeting them face-to-face.

Agencies will inevitably field some of their senior executives for pitches so it’s also worth asking that you meet the team that will work on your business.

All you get with an agency are some computers and some people.  Buying computers is pretty straightforward but finding the team that’s going to be your partner in the coming years is much harder.  The more you engage with agencies during the pitch process, the more likely you are to find exactly the right match for your needs.

Top tips:

1.     Build in a stage in the selection process to go to the agency offices to see the working environment and get a sense of the culture

2.     Spend time at the agency office to meet the actual people your team would work with – the client services team, the creatives, writers etc.

3.     Build in at least two face-to-face meetings.

4.     If unsure at the pitch stage, go and meet the team in their offices again to be sure about the selection of your next agency partner.


Authors: Paul Phillips and Michael Orriss