There’s a period of mourning after a lost pitch for new business. Probably because this part of what we do can be a labour of love, fostering and nurturing ideas before presenting them back, wrapped with a bow.
“…whilst your ideas were strong creatively, the agency we have selected managed to join the dots more for us” – Ouch.
Feedback can sometimes leave you searching between two lines of an email for some insight into why weeks of work for everyone is now reduced to a ‘Dear John’ letter left on the hall table for you to find, leaving you wondering what this ‘other’ agency has that you don’t.
From the perspective of the client though – what can you say? It’s rough, but it’s over. Happy now with the new partner, just let the others down gently. For the unsuccessful agencies though, answers are needed – and maybe that’s where relationships can develop and improve.
Agencies are grown up enough to know they won’t win every pitch, nail every creative, or be a personality match for every client, but it still hurts. Pitch expectations have changed, no longer a big “Ta-da!” idea bomb, dropped loudly before you take a bow amongst building applause. These days they’re a finished thing: created for an audience who represent different parts of the business, costed accurately and logistically sound, including detailed designs, and studio elements worked up as they might be delivered.
Search the internet and there’s a slew of clever articles on reformation of the pitch process Henry VIII-style, where developing relationships and testing programmes with trusted agencies are mooted, and it sounds amazing, but, until the revolution, there are baby steps we can make toward a better RFP environment. Much better to have this environment in place during the process rather than after, and that’s what this is all about really, a space where we all operate at our best.
Ultimately, when clients issue a brief to an agency, it should provide the best possible chance for returning the best responses. Sometimes both parties may perceive the outcomes of the process differently, the client thinks the brief wasn’t met or understood, the agency believes the brief didn’t encapsulate what the client actually wanted. Of course, sometimes we can challenge such things when they stand out on a page, or in a ‘questions’ call, but translation of words and conversations is subjective, both in and out of work, especially when there is a degree of complexity and ambiguity.
It makes sense that, for this kind of investment in time and resource to be worthwhile, it’s got to be right- and, when it comes down to it, if you didn’t win, you didn’t get it right. And, although sometimes you get the feeling you were never in the running for whatever reason (and sometimes you’ll never know), there is an art to picking through the pieces to find things that make you wiser and better.
This is where the client/agency relationship needs to be grown up and take the long view. The agency will be keen to know where they went wrong, what they missed and what they got wrong in the brief. Personally, I’ve never been invited to feedback on the quality of a brief and pitch experience, but it makes sense for both parties to invest time (maybe when the dust has settled a little) so that there’s a genuine ‘Win’ for both parties’ future relationship – surely that’s common sense when you look at it objectively?
Agencies and clients with strong relationships will always find this easier as they speak the same language, and have history and personal contact. For all tenders for work, however, such investments from agencies and clients deserve to be the best that they can, and a little (well, lot of) honesty from both sides in the cool light of day might mean the quality of briefing and responding will be so much better.
Richard Twamley – Creative director at drp