We challenge anyone reading this to find an exercise in advertising more destructive to both the client and the agency than the traditional RFP-based pitch process. A brutal waste of dollars and hours (which just means more dollars) on both sides, just to pick an agency based on parameters that are polar opposite of how projects will actually be run.
You know how it usually goes:
- Client spends countless hours developing a long (and—sorry, but—tedious) written request
- Agency burns the midnight oil, burns tens of thousands of dollars, and burns out their employees—for a shot in the dark
- Neither party gets to know each other much, outside of a few formal Q&A sessions
Think about the insanity of what is actually happening: there is literally no better way to set up the relationship for failure.
No project in reality will run this way. Little to no client involvement? No care for dollars spent? Yeah right. So why pick your agency that way?
At y’all, we’re ready to #DITCHTHEPITCH. FOR. GOOD.
For the good of: The client
Clients, let’s talk straight. When most of you pitch out your work, it means you’re ready for change, right? If you’re truly ready for change, why wait months and waste countless hours watching strangers put on a show for you? Especially when, in truth, it really is…. just a show.
Almost always, these strangers are not the actual team that you’ll work with. It’s likely a room filled with SVPs trying to sell you the same thing they tried to sell your competitor a month before. Yikes.
The strategy and creativity that you see in pitch theater is the product of the agency’s best talent combining forces, which is great! Maybe it makes you rethink your strategy or hypes you up about the creative possibilities of your brand. But it’s flawed: this work has all been done without any input from you, your team, or your legal/regulatory review crew. Is it really the truth of what you’ll be getting on a day-to-day basis?
This process forces the agency to start your relationship on a fabrication, and ultimately rewards those who can lie best. That’s not a relationship set up for success. Wouldn’t you rather know the humans you’ll work with on a day-to-day basis—and how well they can work WITH you?
For the good of: The agency
We don’t think we even need to spell this out. But here goes.
Spend so much money, burn out so many team members, and create a bunch of beautiful—yet pointless—work that will never see the light of day. Sounds like a recipe for your internal teams to hate you. Especially since you asked them to give up nights, weekends, and holidays to pull it off. All to start off a relationship off in debt, based on faking the hell out of it.
You deserve better, and so do the talented people working for you.
If you couldn’t pitch, how would you build new client-agency relationships? Here’s our proposal (wink wink).
Let’s go back to being human beings.
Clients, try leveraging referrals from connections to have conversations with potential partners. Let’s call it an RFC—Request For Conversation. Don’t make potential partners jump through hoops. Get a capabilities intro, talk with each other instead of listening to a long presentation, determine if you can work with the HUMANS in front of you, try to find financial alignment, and then go! This not only makes it easier to test the waters, but it makes it easier to bail more quickly if it's not working.
Agencies, why not invest all that money spent on insane pitches into efforts for your own clients, fostering organic growth? Or do something good for the world? Word will spread that you are awesome, and people will want to work with—and for—your agency. Treat your current clients and other agency partners with kindness, do great work, and work will come your way. Burnout-free.
Throwing away the RFP and ditching the traditional pitch process would help change the state of client-agency relationships forever. We’re in. Are you?