Pitching debate: “Change needs to start with agencies”

FP7McCann’s Chief Growth Officer Samantha Stuart Palmer gives a different take on the discussion

The thorny issue of pitching has sparked plenty of debate recently, and is not going away.

The conversation has moved on from agencies spelling out what is wrong, and how free pitching is a drain on its resources.

Agencies are now starting to come up with solutions they feel will make the pitching landscape work better for them.

Campaign Middle East is keen to speak to both agencies and brands – to highlight  new ideas, suggestions and improve communications between both sides.

We spoke to Samantha Stuart Palmer, Chief Growth Officer at FP7McCann for her views on the topic.

What’s your view on the current pitching process?

Pitching can be magical. It can pull the best from agencies, it challenges us to work in our best flow, deliver fresh work, work with new technologies, and collaborate in new ways with new partners. Pitching keeps us fit.

However, it’s important to recognise that pitching is two-way process: the most successful outcomes are delivered through clarity of brief, timings and budget.

Do you feel things have changed?

I do believe things are changing for the better, albeit slowly, and sporadically.

I have seen several great RFPs of late – clear brief, engaged client, budget communicated up-front, fair timelines, and transparent selection criteria.  They have been a joy to work on and led to some of our most exciting creative and operational solutions.

Working alongside procurement with alignment is key but buying an agency cannot be governed by the same process used to buy products in the construction real estate or other industries – we are looking for a partnership, not a supplier relationship.

When it all goes smoothly, what are the reasons for this?

Transparency, a dynamic and consistent chemistry between client and agency, and the honest desire for great work and a fitting partner.

Would a working group be a good idea to discuss a code of conduct with brands?

Most solutions I hear discussed revolve around how brands need to change, rules they need to follow, or pitch budgets they should provide.  I believe change needs to start with the agencies. There is a multitude of stakeholders in the pitching process and one size fits all guidelines would not necessarily work. There needs to be flexibility in the approach but alignment in expectations.

What else would you suggest?

Agencies have the opportunity to set the standard of pitching that they are willing to accept.  I think the initial onus is on us to facilitate a great process: insisting on a great brief, interactions with the client, and clear financial and timeline expectations.  In return, clients will get better work from the industry and it will lift us all.