Blogs & Comment

How about declining to pitch?

Phil Lynagh is regional  managing director at  Tag: MENA

“It’s not the pitching, it’s losing the pitch. I’ve never heard a squeak from an agency that wins every pitch and that’s because it’s only when you lose more than you win that real costs become apparent. However, there is a simple solution. You wouldn’t knowingly headhunt someone who’s rubbish and you couldn’t work with would you? Your client relationships should be no different so before you decide to enter any pitch environment, just ask yourself the following.

First off and revenue aside, does my agency really want to work on this business? Is there an excellent marketing team? Does it fill a huge category hole? Second, would this client seriously consider my agency? Is this a real opportunity? Do we have sufficient category experience? Could we really deliver? Are we creative enough or even dull enough?
Third, if we win can we keep the business? Are there casting issues? Does this client change its agencies too often?

Honest answers to these questions will leave you in no doubt as to what action to take. If the prospect fits your brand and a good fit often leads to effective enjoyable partnerships, chances are you’ll be passionate about the same things so go mad and pitch away. If not then, regretfully decline. Far too often the majority of agencies on a roster are pitch fodder. Nothing but warm up acts for the main two presenting strategy and creative without any chance of winning. So don’t do it.

Finally, remember that you will probably need to employ new talent to some degree to deliver on the promises made during the pitch and experience tells me good people are nervous on working on accounts that have a reputation of walking or re-pitching every six months. So don’t do it, decline the pitch.

And clients: You know that out of the 10 agencies you’ve just scribbled down, you would really only want to work with two and only three can deliver the scope of work required. So do everybody a favour and only invite the real candidates. We’ll appreciate the honesty, believe me.”



  • I absolutely agree with Phil. Its not just in marketing and advertising but in PR too. Mine is a small agency and all the conditions mentioned work for me.

    As agency, we are too often drawn into client games and very rarely work whether we should play that game. While we are in competition, quite often, its probably a good idea to give the incumbent agency a heads up and ask them why the client is sending out a pitch request and whether it is worth your while pitching for it.

    Saves a lot of angst

  • Thanks Mita. Seems simple enough doesn’t it. I like the idea about going to/asking the incumbent, but we’d all need to take their responses with a good pinch of salt because half the time they will be in denial and the other half in the dark!

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