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By Simon Francis
Pitch consultants come in many shades of grey operating different business models. Simon Francis explains what these differences are and what it means for the client
The ANA and the AAAA are so concerned about the practice of “pay to play” that they have promised an investigation and a new whitepaper
Flock aren’t really an Agency Pitch Consultant, we focus on the operational aspects of marketing, improving marketing effectiveness & efficiency. But because we have run over 50 pitches in the last couple of years we are often asked the differences between us and Agency Pitch Consultants. And, with recent scandals about some Agency Pitch Consultants, taking money from agencies, showing a lack of transparency and a clear conflict of interest, we’re giving our point of view.
Much like picking an agency there are a few major factors that are important when deciding on who to run your pitches for you; size/scale, experience, chemistry, sector expertise etc. We recently heard of a global advertiser using a UK based creative pitch consultant for a global media pitch (the consultant had not run one before) with inevitable results.
Do look hard at the personal experience of the consultants involved in the pitch – we’ve run thousands of pitches, and run agencies, and been topflight marketers – not everyone has the same experience. Do make sure any pitch consultant has at least the basic criteria covered!
Some Pitch Consultants focus on selecting agencies (the screening and pitch part of the process), but they do not really focus on the crucial commercial and contractual aspect of the relationship. Find out what commercial experience the team have, what remuneration models and contracts they propose, and what adaptations/special clauses & terms they use, find out if lawyers will recommend them. Find out what commercial scoping and benchmarking tools they have available, for example, to help give clients the edge we developed our own Agency Scoping Tool.
Some Pitch Consultants do not tend to recommend programs like “Get Fit” or “Agency Interventions”. This is because their skill set and payment are linked to pitches, and not the transformation of agency relationships. When an advertiser comes to us asking for us to run a pitch, we believe it’s vital to identify the root cause of the breakdown in relationship or understand the business logic for a change. Very often the root cause is not remedied by a new agency, or a pitch. So, ask your Agency Pitch Consultancy how they address the root cause, and what are the most recent (successful!) Get Fit programs they have run.
Picking an Agency is not easy, but it is no-where near as hard as setting up a new Agency for sustainable success. Many Pitch Consultants do not consider (or don’t know) what is needed to create a fantastic on-going working relationship and be able to bake that into contractual and commercial terms.
You may also be interested in: Four types of risk profiles when working with agency partners: What’s yours?
Nor, do many have the skills to build new processes or set up new technology and data architectures. Ask your Pitch Consultancy what skills they have in building new processes, and new tech and data architectures. See what Strategic Relationship Management Tools they have, for example we developed at Flock an Agency Appraisal Tool.
Make sure your pitch consultant is conflict free. Conflict? Yes, some pitch consultants take money from advertisers AND agencies. Some Agency Pitch Consultants are wholly paid by agencies; they are new business machines for agencies, but as a side hustle they offer free pitch advice to clients. Of course, they only get paid if there is a pitch and one of the agencies that pays them wins. We believe that this may prevent the best advice over what agencies to choose, as the consultant gets paid by the agency, not the advertiser.
Some Agency Pitch Consultants charge agencies to “be on the books”. Other Agency Pitch Consultants circumvent transparency by running “clubs” for agencies to join or accept favours from agencies like services of web build, video, book publishing etc.
The Agency Pitch Consultants that get paid by agencies select from those agencies that “pay to play”, which means their clients do not get independent, impartial advice. The ANA and the AAAA are so concerned about the practice of “pay to play” that they have promised an investigation and a new whitepaper.
Always, ask whether a Pitch Consultants get paid by agencies, and make your mind up whether there is a conflict of interest.
There are some media and production auditors who also run agency pitches. This is a nice additional revenue stream for them but it is not their core business and the other points in this post may well apply. Moreover, many auditors will try and sell advertisers expensive audit services, or write commercial terms that require an audit, as part of the pitch process. These are often wholly unnecessary!
Also, in an age of integration where media, production, CRM and creative need to come TOGETHER having a niche consultant who cannot join the pieces of your agency ecosystem together could be a disaster! A client told us recently of how badly a media consultant had managed an integrated media, creative, CRM review that they managed to hoodwink the client to allow them to run. It’d have been funny if it wasn’t so bad!
Lastly, we believe that the Pitch is just a run-up to Transition. The Transition and the first 100 days of the Client – Agency relationship are critical. We make a real focus on getting this right and have special formats and processes to set you up for success. Always ask to see what your pitch consultancy is proposing – after the pitch!
This is a brief overview of the different types of consultancy available and some of the things to ask before you appoint an Agency Pitch Consultant.
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