Last week the National reported that The International Advertising Association (IAA) wants agencies to be paid when they lose pitches for business.
At last we all cry, a concerted effort to get people to realise that creative ideas are valuable. Fair enough. But how do you put a price on a great idea? The value of a brilliant piece of creative will likely outstrip the two minutes in the shower it may have taken to come up with it. (Isn’t that where we all get our best ideas?
Actually it is common knowledge that we all spend humungous amounts of time and money preparing presentations for potential new clients. But some companies are not serious when they ask us to submit ideas and there are widespread abuses of the pitching process.
What if the procedure we are asked to follow was insisted upon in other industries?
What if I want to get a new house built?
I’ll need an architect so I do some research online…talk to people who’ve had houses built…maybe even get in touch with a global association of architects. Having done that, I’ll have a list of a handful that I’ll meet. At those meetings they’ll show me some of the houses that they’ve built previously, give me some references, show me their professional qualifications and I’ll tell them a bit about what I’m after.
Now, what do you think will happen if, after these meetings, I pick my three favourite architects (let’s call this my ‘shortlist’) and ask them all to come back in, oooh, 5 days’ time and show me the plans for my new house? That’s right, the fully worked up and costed plans…plus a timeline that they’ll commit to. I imagine my brief would have been OK…I’d like four bedrooms, big kitchen, double-garage, playroom for the kids and an en-suite…so I’d have thought any architect worth their salt would be able to hit the nail on the head first time, wouldn’t they?
The short answer is no!
The thing is of course, I wouldn’t expect that to happen because I’m intelligent enough to know that to get the plans I want…to get the house of my dreams…is going to take a while longer.
And yet this is what clients ask PR agencies to do all the time. Moreover how many times have you heard an existing client say, “We should start next year’s planning as early as possible…give ourselves the time to get the strategy right, define the positioning, come up with some really strong creative…”?
Yes, we should. So why when we pitched for this account did you force us to do the same job in a week (and often less?)
Maybe being paid for pitches is not the solution. Let’s ban them!
Agencies should get much better at presenting credentials and references and have the confidence to decline to pitch valuable creative ideas that in the main (and even if you win) you’re almost certain not to get paid for.
Surely a prospective client can decide on which agency to use based on reputation, experience, previous work, references, team…without needing to know exactly ‘what you would do for us’.
Perhaps this is going too far and any small effort to improve the pitching process in the Middle East and North Africa as the IAA suggests is to be commended, as is the plan to publish a set of guidelines to address many of the problems that exist in the region within the marcomms industry.
As the head of a PR agency I do support both the IAA and MEPRA’s stance and, if nothing else, I hope that leads to further discussion on the subject for as many of us are aware, it is not a simple black and white case. Striking a balance is the difficult part. As every business recognises, new business requires some sort of financial investment.
When though does that investment require some form of remuneration?