Is There an Industrial Pitch Complex?

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Business Development

by Blair Enns

As someone who’s received so much joy from others’ conspiracy theories, I feel like I deserve the chance to float my own, at least once. So here it is. Read on, but only if you’re prepared to have your world shattered.

On January 17th, 1961, outgoing US president Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered his farewell address to the nation in which he warned Americans of the dangers of their country’s burgeoning military-industrial complex – the enmeshed and at times indistinguishable interests of government, politics and corporate greed that were creating the conditions in the country where war was seen by too many to be beneficial, desirable and therefore inevitable.

While Eisenhower didn’t invent the term “military-industrial complex​,”​​ ​he popularized it, and 55 years later we all understand its essence​:​ that some things – ideas, interests or movements – can get so big they seem to steamroller to inevitability, even when it’s not in the interests of the greater good. They take on a life of their own and can never be dismantled because forces too strong and too many are made stronger by the entity and will resist all attempts to unplug it or even slim it down.

That’s not my conspiracy. I think we can all agree that the military-industrial complex is a thing.

No, my conspiracy is that in the creative professions there exists the equivalent: an industrial pitch complex (working title only, tweet me your suggestions) in which numerous dark forces within the creative professions are conspiring to keep the pitch in place for their own nefarious, self-serving reasons. They will stop at nothing to keep the pitch alive. Nothing.

Come with me now as I pull the thread that unravels the whole thing…

Who’s Involved in Our Conspiracy?
Well, everyone of course, but I’m pretty sure conspiracy theory affords the same protection against libel as does parody or true statement. (I’ll admit I’m too lazy to confirm that with a simple Google search.) So let’s name names, shall we?

Clients
There are some great clients out there and then there are those like the ones featured on AMC’s show, The Pitch.

My over-riding thought when watching The Pitch was not what you might think – it was about the clients, not the agencies. I kept thinking, “If I was the CEO of this client company I would fire that CMO.”

Too many clients are caught up in the pageantry of the pitch, luxuriating in the control they wield and sycophantic frenzy they create. For them the pitch must persist. It is their greatest source of power and puppetry.

Procurement People
They’re in on it, but they’re pawns really. They can’t help it. Buying creative services isn’t what they signed up for so they find themselves applying widget purchasing processes to the acquisition of ideas and advice. They are orderly-accountant-types, happy to be at the freaky people table where they propose to bring some rigour and order, if only they knew how.

Over the last few years some procurement people have become pretty good at it, doing less damage, but the best line on the topic goes to pricing guru Reed Holden who says, “Eighty percent of procurement professionals give the other twenty percent a bad name.”

In truth, if procurement people were at the centre of our conspiracy we would be dealing with something far worse than the pitch. Let’s be grateful they’re just willing bit players.

Search Consultants
You would be forgiven for thinking, “Wait – weren’t search consultants replaced by Google years ago?” They weren’t, for the reason that a search consultant’s role has never been to search, but to vet.

You can make a whole lot more money vetting firms for busy clients if you can make the process bigger, longer and more expensive than it needs to be, all under the guise of “searching.”

Search consultants are not only in on the conspiracy, they’re the smoking man​,​ the men in black, the illuminati. They meet in high-security estates in the Hamptons on nights of the full moon where they perform their secret rituals involving bound clients and agency principals clothed only in hoods, blindly groping each other for the pleasure of their master lords who prod them on chanting Lorem Ipsum while sipping Hemingway Daiquiris.

Seriously.

The pitch will never die as long as search consultants are among us. (note: excluding Chuck Meyst and his AgencyFinder.com)

Your Competitors
Do you ever go to the local ad club and hear someone say, maybe a little too loudly, “Everybody knows you can’t win without pitching so don’t even try”?​ That’s what they want you to believe. The reality is that most of your competitors are Alien Subterranean Lizard People who are trying to control you through their thought rays. You know what I’m talking about.

Conferences
New business conferences have become the forum where those complicit in the industrial​ ​pitch complex meet in plain sight. Agencies come in hordes, paying to hear clients tell them how to pitch them better, hoping to rub up against them in the dark hallways in the breathy, stolen moments between shows. Search consultants too get on stage and move their lips. And the police just let this happen.

Lizard People. All of them.

Of Course The Media’s In On It!
How interesting would Ad Age be if there were no pitching in this business? About half.

There was a time in my own agency career where my entire lead generation plan consisted of reading the Accounts Under Review section of Canada’sMarketing Magazine and then scurrying like a lemming to throw my firm’s hat into the ring. (That’s why we still have search consultants – to keep the hordes at bay. It really isn’t their fault. Turns out its mine and the media’s. Mostly the media’s.)

Then there is television’s The Pitch and Mad Men. One is a fictionalized drama of the advertising business and the other is a comedy, both designed to perpetuate the pitch.

Trade Associations
I’m looking at you, 4As.

You know. I know. You know I know.

The Evil Lurking Within
Okay, we agree that when it comes to people in the profession outside of your walls, they’re ALL in on it. You and I both know however that, just like 9/11, there may be outside co-conspirators but this is really an inside job.Your people are in on it.

How do we know? In a word: motive.

If the pitch weren’t here how would they account for all that non-billable time on their timesheet?

How would they justify those $400 lunches at Smith & Wollensky? (Would Smith & Wollensky even exist?)

Without the pitch, selling would really only require one or two people, but look around you – how many people on your team have attached themselves to new business, racking up untold hours writing proposals, brainstorming free ideas, finding reasons why they need to be in the room? When did this happen? How did it all get so big and expensive?

The industrial pitch complex has become a giant slithering mass of entangled self-interests the size of a small planet, with a gravity all its own, sucking into it people, money and time. It grows and throbs, adding layers, pulling in even the honest and the pure. Meanwhile, deep down in its very core, calling all the shots, unbeknownst to even those under their power, lurk…

The Lizard People.

You’re welcome. For speaking The Truth. Somebody has to.

What you do now is up to you.

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