Every client/agency relationship has its ups and downs.  There’ll inevitably be points of frustration along the way, where you might be tempted to call a pitch and review.

Before you make that decision, it’s worth pausing and reflecting on the implications of pitching and the alternative options.

One question worth asking is…are you sure your team are working well with the agency?  Have they made the right effort to forge a genuinely collaborative relationship?  Could any of the issues arising be down to members of your team not being trained in how to work with an agency?  Are the briefings thorough and clear?  Is the process for feeding back working well?  Have they made the agency an extension of your team?  If this is an area for improvement, consider whether your team need training. [The PM Society offers a training workshop called, ‘How to get the best out of your agency’designed specifically for pharma teams].

It would also be worth sitting down with your senior agency lead, to explain your issues and get their perspective.  This might lead to a meeting of minds and agreed action on what needs to be done differently.

You may also conclude that the agency’s abilities and knowledge on the business are too valuable to let go, but perhaps it’s a good time to refresh some of the team? In so doing, could you get a new agency from your old one?

And if after all of that you do decide to hold a pitch, bear in mind some recent research conducted by the PM Society which revealed that 61% of agencies spend over £15,000 in internal agency time for a £200,000 pitch, and 41% spend over £25,000.

In addition, 28% spend between £5,000 and £25,000 on out-of-pocket costs (conducting research, producing creative material for the pitch etc).  So, try and provide some transparency on the size of your budget so that agencies can scale how much they spend accordingly.

It’s also worth bearing in mind some research that was done by the Advertising Agency Register (AAR) which showed that 63% of clients were unhappy with their choice of new agency, just 3 months after pitching.  The explanation for that might lie in many of those clients not engaging enough with the agencies during the pitch process, to make a really informed decision.

There are various recommended approaches, which we’ve touched on in other articles. We highly recommend meeting the agencies at least twice, including (once the lockdown is over) visiting their offices to get a feel for their people and approach.  If you’re doing this via video conference, have a couple of sessions. Don’t rely on one formal ‘face-to-face’ meeting at the pitch only.

We also suggest giving the agencies enough time for the pitch, four weeks if possible, so they can prepare properly, and you can see their best work.

If you already know which agency you want to give the business to – perhaps you’ve worked with them in the past – then don’t hold a pitch!  It’s unprofessional to get agencies to invest significantly in a fool’s errand!

And finally, if you’re not sure quite what to do, but want to see what’s out there, ask 3-4 agencies to present their credentials; relevant work they’ve done in the past, details of the company and their approach etc.  This doesn’t cost agencies anything and it’s a good way to get a feel for the market.


Top Tips

– Before you call a pitch…

– Check that your team is working well with the agency (and give them some training if necessary)

– Have a frank conversation with your agency lead to see where improvements could be made (on both sides)

– Consider asking the agency to refresh the team

– When you call a pitch

– Engage with the agencies and meet each one twice during the process

– Give the agencies 4 weeks so they can show their best work

– Give them a sense of your budget so they can scale their pitch costs accordingly

– And finally, if you’re not sure about pitching…

– Ask 3-4 agencies to present their creds.  It doesn’t cost the agencies and it’s a good way of reviewing the market

Author: Paul Phillips