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Taking a Left-Brain View to Pitch Principles

Shufen Goh shares highlights from Association of Advertising & Marketing, Singapore (AAMS) Pitch Best Practices Guide

There are no winners in a poorly managed pitch. Whenever I hear stories of one from a marketer or an agency, it surprises me that as an industry we haven’t made more of a concerted effort to banish bad practices. Attempts to cut corners or evade due process only defeats the purpose of a review and devalues the pitch.

This year, the Association of Advertising & Marketing, Singapore (AAMS) have come together with the resolution to demand better pitch practices and establish greater trust and transparency in the review process. You can read our recommendations in the AAMS Pitch Best Practices Guide, but drawing from my science background, I’d like to bring a left-brain view to pitch principles to explain why they are good for business.

Why Left-Brain?

A review process is an opportunity for a client to re-assess their current agency partnerships against the current competitive landscape. It is a chance for marketers to improve performance and increase return on investment. We know that good marketing has a direct impact on revenue, and therefore a review should be carried out like any other major business decision – with an orderly, factual, and rational approach.

• Aim for consistent outcomes

Don’t pitch at a campaign level, but at a contract level. Agencies need some commitment on scope. Give the new agency enough time to get acquainted with your business. Best practice dictates entering a minimum 2+1 years contract.

When involved in a pitch, prioritize the elements that will ensure consistency and reliability. If you perform an experiment multiple times and the outcome is always different, you know that the fundamentals aren’t right, or one or more elements are unstable. 

• Eliminate known biases

Be realistic. It’s not possible for participating agencies to be fully immersed in your business to understand your challenges.

Everyone comes to the table with ideas of what good marketing should be. Being able to communicate openly about where priorities, preferences, and budgets lie will prevent reviews from being skewed or influenced by misinformation or internal power-plays.  

• Consider the impact of the wider ecosystem

In modern marketing, there is often no one clear agency lead for everything. Collaboration and co-creation are the new norm.

To successfully bring a new agency into the fold requires a clear understanding of existing interactions within a company’s agency ecosystem. Clients need to ensure that their agency model is up to date and that the pitching agencies are made aware of their responsibilities for integration. 

• Know the value of information

Think carefully of the amount of information agencies need to share during the RFI stage. Ask only what you intend to use for the evaluation. One is ideal, two is max for number of pitch challenges to be issued at RFP stage.

Marketers need to understand the Value of Information (VOI) instead of asking questions that unnecessarily prolong the process or have no relevance to the desired outcome. To better understand VOI, marketers should ask the following questions: 1) How much do I already know? 2) How much of that information will weigh our decision, for or against? 3) How good is the information (is it quantifiable?)

• Power what fuels the pitch

Recognise agency effort and intellectual property. Consider paying a pitch fee.

In physics, power is the rate of which work is done. Inevitably in a pitch, an agency will bring its best resources to churn out great ideas in a short period of time. Pitch fees are a way for marketers to acknowledge the power that fuels the process. 

Shufen Goh is president, Association of Advertising & Marketing, Singapore (AAMS)

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