Thursday, December 22, 2011
Son of a Pitch
For decades now advertising has worked on the pitch system, where the vast majority of projects are won by doing the majority of strategic and creative work upfront.
I'm starting to think that this system is (in this economic climate) completely broken, and that it is not only damaging agencies but clients too.
In the crazy old days, agencies were making gigantic profits, and a pitch system that ensured you had great ideas before being thrown piles of money was completely logical. Why risk paying huge sums of money on unproven creative risk takers?
Except now there are very few creative risk takers, the industry has been made more business-like, more efficient and more money focused than ever before. There are very few reasonable or bigger sized agencies that will give you rubbish unless you brief them badly.
Perhaps more importantly, agency profit margins have dropped (especially outside London) massively from those days. I would take a large bet that almost every agency in the UK has at least one account that runs at a loss. Yet we are being forced to keep spending on pitches that have no compensation whatsoever. Not only that but pitches have no guarantee of any actual work; you could spend £30k on winning a £25m account only for them to pull the plug with no warning and no compensation, and you have no comeback whatsoever.
You also have the problem of clients using pitches as a cost-cutting tool, holding a pitch each year to drive agency margins down. How can you expect work that cuts through and drives sales if you don't give us the time or money to develop it fully?
Agencies used to have it too easy, but the weight has shifted too far the other way.
Instead of agencies working with time to think and properly plan out the right way forward; they are being asked to generate an entire strategy and campaign in an increasingly short space of time. Even though you develop the campaign, the cornerstone is being set way too early. This means agencies don't get to produce their best work, and clients don't get the most for their money.
We all want to make great work that makes the client a shedload of money, but in many cases the current system holds us all back.
Maybe in 2012 it's time for the IPA to consider if there is a better way, and if not how can we at least make the pitch system fairer for all agencies and clients; in order that we can produce the clever, effective work we all want to.
Ranted by Rob Mortimer (aka Famous Rob)