Is it time to abandon the traditional agency pitch process?

Baseball pitcher on stadium

A friendly prospective client approached us recently asking if we could send on an outline of a typical pitch process and briefing template.

When we started looking at the standard RFI templates and multi-stage pitch processes that are still often used, it made us question whether this was actually the best approach in today’s world of agile and fast paced working practices.

Admittedly, for some large budget, global advertising accounts, a longer, more detailed pitch process is required but surely for the majority of pitches today, there are better options.

In fact, the argument for a new pitch process isn’t actually a new one. Research by Creativebrief found that respondents were largely in agreement that the traditional pitch process is no longer “fit for purpose” in today’s environment – with 61% of brands and 93% of agencies wanting to see change.

This same research identified that less than half of brands questioned (44%) believe that the pitch process offers a “true sense” of what it will be like to work with an agency.

With this in mind, we have put together some alternate approaches that you could use. Obviously the one that works best for you will depend on:

  • Your internal procurement process – your internal due diligence and procurement process may impact which pitch process is right for you
  • The type of work/pitch – if the pitch is for a one-off project it might be more cost and time effective to use a shorter, more agile process
  • The size of the prize – more often than not a larger budget would justify a more detailed pitch process
  • Your timings – obviously if you need the campaign to start in a matter of weeks you won’t have time to go down the more traditional process route!

The ‘standard’ pitch process

As mentioned, there is likely to be time and a place for the original agency pitch approach. It is however a long old process, which goes something like this:

A standard pitch process flow chartThrow in a couple of chemistry meetings and tissue sessions you’re looking at investing a lot of time and expense for both the agency and the client. Admittedly, this full process isn’t required for all pitches but even the core stages (briefing/ RFP/ Q&As/ Creative development / presentations) are a lot of work for all involved.


So what is the alternative pitch process?

Skip the RFI and chat instead

Woman laughing on the phone. Pop art style.Most of this information however you could probably get from the agencies website therefore consider whether the RFI is really necessary. Instead, spend a day looking over your potential agencies websites, and have 15minute phone conversation with them (or even face to face if they are local) if you did want to find out a bit more about their particular structure/ style or approach. After all, you can quite often get a good sense of what the agency is about and whether you’re likely to get on from an initial conversation.In its simplest terms, the RFI simply outlines the agencies structure and why they are right for your business, introduces the team that may, or may not be working on the business, and showcases case studies of similar problems. It might also outline the overall approach to your problem. From this, you should be able to whittle your long-list straight down to a short list who you can invite to respond to the brief.



The non-creative creative pitch

paints and coloured pencils with a 'stop' sign over themWhen considering a potential agency what you are actually interested in is their creative thinking, and how they would approach and resolve your particular problem and objective. And this should be seen through their strategic response. Consider therefore asking your shortlisted agencies to avoid sharing creative work and focus on the strategy response only. You can then see their creative ability through their creds and case studies of previous work.

Not only will help you to focus on how the agency proposes to meet your business objectives rather than getting distracted with what that solution looks like, but it will also enable you to really understand their strategic approach.

The workshop

illustration of workshop elementsAnother alternative is to hold workshop sessions with a short list of agencies. You’d spend half a day, or a day with the agency team, briefing them in the morning and actively participating in the session to understand the dynamics of the team, working processes and creative and strategic approaches. The agency would then present their ideas back at the end of the day.

The benefits of this approach is that you really get under the skin of how the agency thinks and approaches problems. More importantly though, you also get to understand the chemistry between you and the agency, giving you mu ch more of an idea what the actual process will be like.

The test drive

Illustration of person driving in a convertible carThe best way to get to know an agency, and to understand if they are a good fit with your business, is to actually work on a project together.

Therefore, consider briefing an agency, or a couple of agencies on smaller sperate projects. You’ll be able to get to know the team who will be working with you, get a feel for how they understand your business, approach your challenges and get a good idea of how you might work together. You will need to do a bit of research before hand to get an idea of whether they would be right for your business, which could include:

  • Reviewing similar work they’ve done in the same sector and channels
  • Speaking to their network and looking on linked in for shared connections
  • Speaking to their clients

No matter what approach you think might be best, one of the most important things to remember is that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Depending on your brief and agency requirements, a different process might be more relevant, and we need to be flexible to adapt where necessary.

Here at Moreish we’re big fans of the ‘test drive approach’ so if you were looking for a new agency, we’re happy to work on a one-off project first, so you can see just what we could do for you. Feel free to get in touch for a chat.

Have you recently taken part in a pitch that differed from the standard approach? Or have you have found an approach that works for you? If so, let us know!