The word “pitch” can be a dirty word to use amongst creative types. There is an ongoing debate within the industry over whether agencies pitching creative work to clients in a bid to win new work is a good or a bad thing, with many designers and agencies now refusing to pitch, whether the pitch is paid for or not. This is of course is not a new concept. Step back to the early 80’s, and the debate over pitching within the world of advertising was just beginning.
In his book Hegarty on Advertising: Turning Intelligence into Magic (which I highly recommend you read) John Hegarty co-founder of British ad agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH), talks about the agency’s innovative new approach to pitching. Starting out with no clients, just a suitcase and a small team, BBH took the bold decision not to pitch creative work to clients but instead to only pitch the strategy. This was a new concept in the world of advertising and one which they stuck by. This brave new approach saw BBH win contracts with Levi’s, Audi and Boddingtons and subsequently produce some of the most memorable ads/tag lines of the past 30 years.
In this article from Creative Review, Stefan Sagmeister of Sagmiester & Walsh reveals that his studio never pitches for work and suggests that “the pitch process is bad for designers, clients and the work” because, he continues “the work that ends up winning, is not necessarily the best solution for the client but the best response to the brief”. In this respect, Sagmeister has a point. A brief should be questioned rather than strictly adhered too and as the creative in the process, it’s up to us to ask those all important questions. Within a pitch environment you won’t necessarily get the chance to do that.
So what does this mean? Should we approach pitches with gusto or like Sagmeister, should we simply refuse and let someone else take on the work and risk of investing valuable time and resources into an avenue that may turn out to be a dead end? In my opinion, this really does depend on your own position. If you’re a BBH or Sagmeister & Walsh then your reputation and vast portfolio of clients is likely to proceed you. As a smaller agency looking to work with larger clients, the pitch process is a necessary part of driving new business and building new relationships.
At Fiasco, we will take on tenders to pitch and we have a very good record of winning them. To date we’ve only lost one pitch and that was because we’d interpreted the brief and the target market wrong and consequently, the idea didn’t work. You can take advice from articles such as this on “How to prepare for a perfect pitch” however from my experience, the route to success comes from keeping things simple. What John Hegarty spoke about and what BBH was built on is the “big idea” and this is still true 30 years on. You don’t have to over do your presentation with flashy visuals and unnecessary jargon. The bottom line for any good pitch is the concept. Get the prospective client excited about the concept and the strategy, and the rest will follow.
Pitches, paid or unpaid are always going to be part of the creative landscape and the debate amongst designers over whether they are right or wrong will continue for many more years to come. As John Hegarty says “Creativity is the most important thing we possess because that’s what we are – we’re creative beings” so whatever you decide to do, do it for you and do it with pride.