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On Pitches and Procurement

March 4, 2011

(And on a side note, when you are thinking about something why do you suddenly see lots of articles and journals that all focus on the same thing? Is it that you suddenly notice it more? Or is there some more sinister group-think thing going on here?)

Now, I haven’t been in this industry for that long. But even in the time I’ve been working on pitches I’ve seen a shift in how they are managed and handled.

There’s a real difference between the pitches where you are talking direct to the marketing team. And the ones where all the agencies are only allowed contact with the procurement department.

I was reading an interesting article in Campaign by David Wethey (25.2.2011).

My main take out from this was about how briefs come across from clients. When the client hands you a brief, there’s an answer already implicit in there. So you need to work with the client to define what the problem is, and how you can solve it.

This is magnified in the pitch process. Suddenly you are in a situation where you have to come at the problem cold. And more often than not, a situation where it is nigh on impossible to question the brief itself. And more than that there’s no time to question or do any meaningful digging (is it just me, or does 1-2 weeks seem to be the pitch turn-around time of choice at the moment?)

This thinking all got solidified when I read this article by The Secret Marketer (Marketing Week).

The quality of the relationship with the client is such a massive part of what we do.

When that relationship is there, even in a pitch situation, you can question briefs and work together on finding the right answer. Which is not necessarily the one that the brief was leading to.

And, when procurement get involved suddenly you find your access to the people who wrote that brief is restricted.

Either you can’t go back and question the person, or even ask them why they wrote certain things.

Or you can, but you know that your answer will be shared with everyone else in the race as well. Which means asking those questions would be like a poker player waving his cards over his head shouting “I’ve got a Royal Flush!”

It is frustrating when you find that you’ve been working towards what you think is the goal, and it turns out that you are actually facing the wrong way. It all could have been solved so much earlier on, if you could just talk to people. Without that then looking like favouritism.

But I’m not sure how you’d turn this around. So it’ll probably just carry on bothering me.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 4, 2011 8:48 pm

    Even when you do have a great pitch process with lots of client contact, Procurement still manage to stick their oar in somehow.

    I once had a lovely pitch experience – interim meetings to discuss thinking and initial ideas with client, phone calls in-between etc but when we were appointed Procurement emailed over a bar chart comparing our agency rates to the local five man agency that did their POS and newsletters. I think the account director may have asked if the Procurement guy bought his groceries in Netto or Sainsbury’s…

  2. March 6, 2011 5:49 pm

    Ha! What did the Procurement guy answer?!

    On re-reading this post sounded a little harsh – I have been in some pitch processes where the Procurement people are really helpful. And I can see why they are are (or at very least what they are trying to do).

    But a lot of the time it feels a lot like they are adding another layer of complication to what is already a very complicated process. Especially when it comes to public sector stuff.

    Have you seen anything change more positively over pitches you’ve done?


  1. a sideways look at pitch practice « (almost) always thinking

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