Bitching About Pitching & Agency Compensation

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Flash Reports

Flash Report @ AgencyFinder – September 19, 2006


1. Bitching About Pitching & Agency Compensation
2. Client Search Trends (Business is Popping)
3. The Whole Truth About Search Consultants
4. Licensing – What Can You Share?
5. A Dictionary challenge


Monday’s (9/18) AdAge carried an interesting story from the ANA Conference that revealed “simmering levels of anger” about the pitch process. Three prominent agency creative officers spoke quite candidly about the fact that pitch dollars might be better spent on clients that were capable of making an agency selection without employing spec creative.

We oppose spec creative and have since we began in 1997. Many clients, even those with vast experience, have the mistaken opinion that

somehow “they” are capable of recognizing “great creative” – particularly that which will

produce positive results. I suggest that even some of the best agency CD’s couldn’t make that determination with the information clients have at hand. By example, a client might have a particular fondness for the color “yellow.” Congratulations and an unfair victory to the agency whose spec work happens to be predominantly “yellow.” (It’s happened!)

What’s really going on (in case the obvious is not as clear as it should be) is that each client wants to discover which agency really “gets it!” Which agency has a creative style they’re comfortable with, which agency (during an agency tour) has “good people”, which agency has shown the logic and process by which their work-products are produced, and which agency has listened, identified the strengths and weaknesses of the client, and has a plan to communicate that to the market. The client wants as much hard evidence as you can give them that YOUR AGENCY GETS IT! If you were their only candidate, you might say “trust us”, but in the competitive pitch environment, you’ve got to prove some- thing through demonstration. (Doctor, would you mind terribly doing a small free surgery before I become your paying brain tumor patient?) After more than ten years and 7,000 agency reviews, we must sound like a broken record when we advise clients. But we tell them to visit their 6 – 7 semi-finalists. Other than a general overview, don’t start briefing agencies on your assignment; save that for the finalists. Tour the agency (first), meet as many staffers as you can (evaluate chemistry), study the place and study their styles. Learn how they work from start (client challenge) to execution. Learn how media alternatives are chosen. Come to understand their process – if there is one. If they haven’t covered everything, the agency may want to do a capabilities presentation. Let that happen.

Select 3 finalists and invite them to your headquarters for a final presentation. Send each finalist a marketing brief (share as much experiential data as you have and can afford to – an NDA might be in order) and give all contenders the same fixed budget to use for the pitch. The assignment asks each for a strategic presentation – with as much detail as each wishes to provide, to identify media alternatives, theme(s), concepts, the works. Measurement by the client is to determine which agency “gets it”, which agency seems to understand the proper communication channels, and is capable of delivering the essential message.

For more insight, we suggest the client ask each agency (in advance) to prepare and present a

“mock” invoice for the presentation. In other words, had the agency been the AOR, show us what your talent at their rates would have us paying for what we just saw. And those rates should apply for the first fiscal year.

The challenge is to be as creative in the pitch process as you are in your work-product. For example, without using finished spec creative, I’d bet on our team. We’d carefully, slowly present our strategy, giving each client representative solid, sincere eye contact. We’d outline our media alternatives and we’d show tons of reach and frequency. We might even risk boring them a bit with detail. But just before it’s too much, we’d draw back the curtain to reveal a statuesque gentleman, lit with a pencil beam of light, standing in shadows at a podium. “Ladies and gentlemen, to introduce our campaign using only the human voice as our instrument, may I present Mr. James Earle Jones.”


I burned up more copy space than I intended above, so let me be brief. There’s been a mild explosion in client search activity on the West Coast. That’s great news, since that part of the country suffered much too long until recently. Beyond that great news, the slight downside is that clients are taking quite a bit longer to come to their decisions. But by and large, they do conclude.


Would you be interested in an article or white paper that tells the “whole truth and nothing but” about search consultants? Adweek and AdAge do bits and pieces, but the one area they never address is – who is paying what, to whom, when, under what circumstances, and just what do search consultants get paid, and just what do they really do? (to earn those fees). And finally, who runs a clean ship, and who is conflicted? Would you vote for such an expose’? Let me know.


I’m participating in a panel at the coming InfoCommerce Group annual meeting in Philadelphia. Our topic is Licensing. Primarily, licensing being the concept of granting the right to use for a fee a process, data, etc. Do you have any specific experience? Do you have any Do’s or Don’ts? I’d be grateful for your input. The event is October 10th.


One more quick one. Agencies that get our invitations frequently thank us for the “lead.” We’re looking for a better word – and I think it will have to be invented. Leads come in various forms, but in the sales sense, a lead is the suggestion (based on some degree of fact) that a prospect may be interested or looking for a particular good or service. But the typical lead is not prequalified, tested, perfected, validated or consulted in depth. Our invitations are far more than leads. They might better be called “pre-clients.” When the agencies were invited to pitch Wal-Mart, did they thank SRI for the “lead?” I don’t think so. The industry needs a new word – any thoughts?


Charles G. Meyst, Chairman/CEO

Business Partnering International, Ltd.
Vantage Place, 4327 Cox Road
Glen Allen, VA 23060
Voice: 804.346.1812

Search Statistics

Total Searches: 11519
Searches This Month: 3
Searches This Year: 9