The first time I watched the new AMC reality TV show The Pitch, I have to admit, it was kind of fun seeing a television program, depicting the industry that I work in. Each week two advertising agencies compete in a creative shootout to win an assignment from a nationally known company. After watching the most recent episode where McKinney and WDCW are slugging it out to win an assignment from Subway, it got me thinking about the reality of how agencies really do new business and how the client/agency relationship truly functions today.
The idea of agencies doing speculative creative work in a really short timeframe to win business may create TV drama, but it takes some of the magic, and more importantly, value away from what we really do everyday with clients. A strategically sound, impactful, buzz-worthy advertising campaign normally doesn’t come about in one week. It requires meetings throughout the planning/creative process with the client. After all we are in the communications business. It requires research analysis, account planning, etc… For the most part, these types of campaigns are developed AFTER an agency has been awarded the business.
Many clients today select their agency based on capabilities presentations. They meet with prospective agencies and choose their agency based on reputation, experience in the industry, what type of “chemistry” they had with the agency team, the quality of their creative work, how they think, etc…They may do an RFP, then cut it down to a short list, and interview those agencies. But it’s not always “may the best idea win.”
Speculative creative is a costly endeavor for agencies, and for clients. Why? Because you don’t always get the agency’s best thinking and the client hasn’t been able to provide the proper “deep dive” into their business. Normally a creative strategy and positioning are developed first and approved by the client, before creative is ever developed.
The Pitch is a lot of fun and definitely makes for some great Sunday night entertainment. But on Monday morning, we in the agency business have got to get back to the reality of winning business without giving away our most valuable asset.