Passion, chemistry and an ability to change business should be a fundamental part of any marketing pitch process. Yet in the nine years since Oystercatchers joined forces with the IPA, PRCA, CIPS and ISBA to help the industry write a “small” 98-page tome on best practice in search and selection, these core elements have been lost along the way.
I believe that there has never been a better time to re-think what has become an over-manufactured process.
We all see marketing and agency business becoming more complex daily. And I see a huge challenge in managing market paradoxes which, is as true for the pitch process as it is for the marketing department and customer experience.
Companies can be large and global yet work with small local agencies. Some agency groups are trying to offer a dynamic, new approach and some are not. Businesses need more budget to handle the complexity of marketing and yet have less budget. Brands can still do the big blockbuster and the small segmented niche low cost big ideas that go viral. Consultancies have bought agencies, agencies are offering consultancy. Clients are in-sourcing, out-sourcing, semi-sourcing, and, media owners want direct relationships with brands, media companies and agencies and vice versa.
Meanwhile, the rise of procurement has been both good and bad for the industry and the pitch. The commercial rigour is helpful and on a fairer playing field, but margins are squeezed more than ever before, and suddenly everyone has woken up to the lack of transparency, which means that running an agency is now probably the best and worst job ever.
In the middle of this epic change, the pitch process has become overly complex, long winded and often asks the wrong questions at the right time or the right questions at the wrong time.
So, against this backdrop we set out to create a new Modern Marketing Pitch (MMP) – starting our journey eighteen months ago to reshape and evolve the pitch process involving agencies like Grey and clients such as Glenmorangie, Bowers & Wilkins, Weightwatchers, L’Occitane, F1 and Euroclear.
We recognised that a more agile, inclusive and transparent process was required, that looking at an agency or supplier purely though the lens of a procurement brief and process would not create the right partnership outcome.
As a result, our new product now starts by focussing on the ambition of the brand before starting on the specific brief. We eliminate pointless RFI’s, but make sure financial, commercial and other legal requirements are analysed upfront, and, we maximise the time the client, supplier or agency work collaboratively together through the process. We also lead conversations to support clients who want to partner with media owners such as Google, Facebook, TV, newspapers and radio, as well as with agencies, production partners, consultancies and other suppliers.
We have created two main approaches to fit the two paradoxes. One for the larger, bold, complex, and more transformational type pitch and another for dynamic brands with pace, agility and the ability to make fast decisions.
Both are agile, collaborative and focussed on partnerships. The brief is issued before the first meeting and developed with both agency and client input. Tissue meetings become sessions to test and learn and workshop ideas. Following agency appointment, an ignition session starts the relationship in the right way. Procurement is included at the onset but with focus on the commercials and financials away from the creative/innovation process.
The Modern Marketing Pitch halves the timeline to decision from three months to six/seven weeks with a six-step process:
Ambition: big picture business objectives made central to the brief
Focussed Selection: the big three questions. No RFI
Brief in Beta: collaborative and immersive
Test and Learn iterations: mirrors real-life working process between client and agency
The Decision: swift, decisive, transparent procurement process
Ignition: creating the perfect relationship
The Sprint Pitch, meanwhile, is a five-day process which is agile, collaborative, ideas and outcomes-focussed.
Last year, Formula 1, one of the brand owners we worked with to develop MMP, test-drove the process as part of its ambitious transformation initiative. It needed to quickly shift perceptions of F1 and bring agencies on board by January 2018. MMP enabled it to make the right selection in just nine weeks. We were delighted when F1 Marketing Director Ellie Norman praised MMP’s innovation for delivering “agility, innovation, financial rigour and a perfect partnership” with new agencies Wieden + Kennedy, Wavemaker and Brainlabs.
Meanwhile, Jamie Taylor, Retail, Property and Wholesale Director of L’Occitane, another brand tapping into MMP, praised the speed and efficiency of the process and its ability to meet transparency expectations and get the right people fit in six to seven weeks.
The Modern Marketing Pitch is now live, and businesses can partner with agencies they trust and like with a consultancy-led process that has ambition, creativity and innovation at its heart. We’re hoping that the industry will increasingly join us in the charge to pitch practice change.