Bitching About Pitching: How To Choose The Right Creative Agency
Why jumping through hoops is a waste of time. For everyone.
The purpose of an advertising pitch is to evaluate and ultimately find the best possible creative partner for a brand. Why is it then that the whole process is designed to remove all emotional connection and real human interaction between the client and the agency peeps said client is considering working with?
I’ve worked on both sides of the fence on multimillion dollar campaigns and have learned one truth. The best creative work happens when the client and agency have an open, transparent relationship that’s based on mutual trust and respect. Add great chemistry within the united “team” and an environment where there are no bad ideas, no egos and the end result is something magical.
This you don’t get through an RFP or a pitch.
Judging an agency by having them jump through hoops for no pay is not the right way to start a relationship. In most cases it only serves to kill the passion that they might have had towards your brand to begin with not to mention the idea of working on it with you.
So if pitching is the worst first date ever how do you go about finding the right partner?
You revert back to being human instead of acting as a corporation or a brand and spend time with the team and the people you are considering to work with. You get to know them. You get a sense of who they are as people, as human beings. What they believe in, what they are excited about, how they see the world. You throw some ideas around — together — and you gauge if they “get it” and are really interested in your product and even more so the work on offer. And you see if you get along. If there is chemistry.
On the other hand you also level with them. On everything. The challenges you face, the not so cool parts of the job and of course the great things as well. Paint a realistic picture and see if the spark is still there.
And when it comes to money look for a partner you can trust. Someone who wants to and will make the most with the money you have. A partner. Not an agency controlled through Excel and fear of losing the account at every turn.
Like in life beyond boardrooms and PowerPoint to get groundbraking lasting results you need to invest in long term relationships.
My recipe for finding the right agency:
- Make a shortlist of the creative agencies / people you want to work with and whose work you admire.
- Meet them. Spend some real “quality” time with them outside of a meeting room. See if you like each other. See if ideas start to flow and if there is the unmistakable shiver of magic in the air.
- If not. Don’t force it. No matter how great their work is for other clients.
- If yes then talk money. Openly. See if the economics make sense on both sides.
- If they do then agree on real tangible targets for your journey together, make sure you get the team you want and define how you will work together (as closely and as integrated as possible is my suggestion).
- Get to work. And seriously: Have fun.
p.s. When Steve Jobs chose an agency to help Apple bounce back in the 90’s he cancelled the pitch Apple had running and went with the people he felt good about. The people he trusted to share his vision and passion. That decision wasn’t driven by facts but feel. There was no time wasted on hoops. And in eight weeks they rolled out ”Think Different”.