To pitch, or not to pitch? The Six Fs of pitching

Over the last few weeks, we’ve covered the things you need to think about when you choose a new creative agency, and why smaller agencies might be a better fit,  but have you ever thought about it from the agency’s perspective? Just because you have a great creative brief, doesn’t automatically mean every agency will want to pitch for the work. Surprised? You shouldn’t be!

Just as agencies have processes for delivering client’s work on time and on budget, they also have criteria for accepting or rejecting pitches. We call ours the ‘Six Fs’, aka ‘The Pitch Mangle’, and the rules are simple. Before we enter any pitch process, the proposal has to tick at least three of the Six Fs, otherwise it’s simply not worth pursuing. Although admittedly there are occasions when one of the Fs is so dominant that the answer is immediately obvious!

So, here are the Six Fs of our ‘Pitch Mangle’. The sixth one might surprise you!

  1. Fair: are the pitch circumstances fair?

One of the first things we look at is the number of competing agencies who will be presenting their work in person.

Pitching generally involves committing a lot of time and effort as you will need to pull together your best and most relevant work. So, if you’re one of 10 agencies invited to pitch, which gives you starting odds of success of only 10%, is it really worth the effort? The answer for us is a definite no, and in fact any number higher than three participating agencies would result in a cross in this box.

Also, if a company is asking a lot of agencies to pitch, you have to question whether they actually know what they want? Maybe a bit unfair, but in our experience, this type of scatter-gun approach is rarely successful and just wastes everyone’s time.

And if you’re asking agencies to produce a lot of strategic and creative insight for a pitch, don’t ask them to ‘Just send a PDF’. This type of work needs to be presented properly, and if you don’t give the agency that opportunity, you’re simply demonstrating a lack of commitment and investment in them and the process.  Remember pitching is a two-way street – if agencies are going to put the effort in, so must you.

And finally, we should touch on a bugbear most agencies face at one time or another. As we’re already mentioned pitching takes time and effort, so if you’re working with an agency, are happy with their work and have built a good relationship with them, think carefully before you ask them to pitch for every project.  There comes a time when an agency has earned the right not to pitch.

  1. Fit: Is the work a right fit for us?

Most of the work we do, especially our strategic and creative methodologies, are sector agnostic. However, there may be times where we feel we would be disadvantaged in a competitive environment. This may simply be because the other agencies have qualities we don’t, such as an outstanding track record in a particular sector of expertise, or offices in key global locations (for a global campaign) – although, we have successfully delivered global campaigns without those overheads!

For us to put a tick in this box, we have to feel we are properly equipped to respond to the brief and that there is some synergy between our strengths, specialisms and the client.

From an ethical perspective there are some no-go organisations we just wouldn’t want to work with.

  1. Financial: is it a worthwhile investment of our time and talent?

This isn’t quite a case of ‘show me the money’ but in some cases a project may have a budget that simply doesn’t warrant us taking the risk. As we’ve already said, pitching takes time and effort, and when you tally up all those man hours, you could be looking at a cost of anything from £5k up to £20k in some cases! This means it could cost £10k to pitch for work of the same value. Unfortunately, from a business perspective, this just isn’t viable or sustainable.

  1. Forward: will it move us forward as a business?

No agency can stand still or rest on its laurels, and by the same token, to keep innovative and dynamic, an agency needs to keep it fresh. Nothing focuses the mind more than being right on the edge of your comfort zone, and nothing breeds complacency and stagnation more than the ‘same-old-same-old’.

So, we will actively seek opportunities that move us forward as a business. Whether it is higher profile than normal, a campaign which addresses a different target audience than we are used to, something that ventures into sectors we are less familiar with, or if it moves us forward as a business, it’s a tick in the box.

  1. Famous: will it help our profile?

If we’ve still not made a clear decision after the first four Fs, maybe because the budget is limited or there are a couple more agencies in the mix than we might like, we will then consider whether winning the work might be good for our profile or reputation.

It’s not about making us famous per se, but if it helps establish us in a particular area, enables us to offer a new service, or provides us with amazing promotional material that we can leverage to win future work, then it’s a tick in the box.

Also, while a piece of work might not be financially viable if it is something which we can leverage for the good of the agency, such as charity or pro bono work, while also giving back, then that’s also a definite plus.

  1. Fun: will it be fun?

And if the checklist still hasn’t given us an answer, will it be fun to work on? That might not be enough on its own, but it could be a swaying factor if we’re a little on the fence about the pitch! If the budget is challenging and/or we feel it’s not quite the right fit, a day working on a shoot with our favourite celebrities (or anyone from Love Island!) for instance, might just be a clincher.

And if we really can’t decide…

Oh, and I guess we should mention we also have a secret seventh F that we pull out of the box on very rare occasions. We won’t go into detail but it’s a variation on “What the heck, let’s do it anyway!”

If you do have any work you would like us to pitch for, please get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.