A media pitch is very time-consuming for everyone involved, even though in many cases companies already hire a pitch consultant: But why doesn’t this make the process leaner? Michael Jäschke, Founder & Shareholder of the JOM Group, asks himself exactly that and shows in his article why this is the case and how he imagines the ideal pitch world.
A medium-sized company is looking for a new media agency partner and wants to put its budget out to tender. The expertise of a pitch consultant specializing in media is called upon for the selection process. What follows for the agencies: Phone calls, voting, 2 to 3 rounds of pitches as well as tough submission deadlines – for the first round there are often less than 72 hours to deliver a complete presentation, for the second round four weeks may pass, but 300 working hours are also required.
In the third (and hopefully last) stage of the tender, “only” three of the original seven agencies are still in the running. A pitch fee? Zero for all participants.
So far (unfortunately) nothing unusual. The agency industry is quite used to grief in this respect.
But what does the pitch consultant actually do in this process?
In addition, one always wonders what function the consultants actually have in such a process. When pitch consultants and media auditors emerged sometime in the 90s, they focused primarily on the big advertisers with high two- or three-digit million budgets in the media pot. The goal in a clearly structured, analog media landscape was to optimize conditions through (supposed) transparency and comparability. With these investment volumes and at the time, quite appropriate.
Now, many independent media consultants are increasingly discovering medium-sized businesses as a potential target group for themselves. Due to the cost and margin pressure of many manufacturers, the continuing austerity course of advertisers in terms of marketing specialists, smaller marketing teams as well as the growing uncertainty due to the “channel explosion”, the consultants are finding open ears with many marketing decision makers of medium-sized companies.
As mentioned at the outset: that’s perfectly fine and an understandable move to enlist the help of a pitch consultant. But we experience very time-consuming pitch processes for both client and agency, in which strategic planning approaches receive far too little attention. Processes that have been set up for companies with budgets in the triple-digit millions are transferred to SMEs as a blueprint.
Why? Because it is much easier to gather and compare information on purchasing conditions.
Unfortunately, we are still trapped in a payfactor mindset that completely overrides many strategic thoughts.
We all dutifully fill out our condition wallpapers and calculate cost-per-GRP. In nine out of ten cases, this not only lacks any comparability, but is also complete bullshit in view of the customers’ objectives.
The big problem? For medium-sized companies with these budget restrictions, “every shot has to be right” and the euro spent has to fulfill the maximum potential impact. The condition focus is the completely wrong way to do this.
The result of this development is, among other things, business forms such as “trading”, in which a media agency itself becomes a marketer and finally loses its neutrality. The client’s objective? Secondary. If we put aside the high effort on the part of the client and the agency, the essential point remains: the processes often simply lead to wrong agency decisions and therefore result in a disadvantage for one side in particular: for the advertising company.
What would we like to see from pitch consultants?
I keep asking myself: shouldn’t the experience and knowledge of the market of these very consultants lead to a much leaner and more targeted pitch process? Shouldn’t the “pitch experts” know the agencies inside out? The service portfolio, the people who work there, the strengths and weaknesses? And if you then put this information next to the client’s specific requirements and goals, yes wouldn’t the process have to look different?
In our ideal world, the pitch consultant proactively approaches the media agencies existing in the market and convenes update meetings at regular intervals. Here, there could be an exchange about what moves the market, what mission and vision the respective agency is pursuing, and what has changed in the performance keyboard. And this should happen completely independently of pitches.
This would result in the following scenario: A medium-sized company is looking for a new media agency partner and wants to put its budget out to tender. The expertise of a pitch consultant specializing in media is called upon for the selection process. The pitch consultant consults with the company, finds out where the needs are and, on the basis of this information, can name two suitable media agencies that are invited to the “pitch”.
The result: two agencies instead of seven, a strategy meeting with an intensive exchange of ideas instead of three rounds of pitches.
For change to occur here, however, real concessions must be made:
- Agencies must show attitude and not get involved in such processes in the first place, or at least drop out at the right moment.
- Consultants must develop strategic know-how, get to know and understand agencies in detail, and not design lengthy selection processes for the sake of man-days.
- Companies should address the issue or problem and then demand much leaner processes and a more targeted selection of participants from their consultants in the pitch process.