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Hit the right pitch from the outset

Hit the right pitch from the outset
Off the back of the recent pitch practice debate, IPA’s New Business Group Co-Chair, JWT’s Carmen Bekker, provides a timely reminder of the waste that poor pitch practice can result in for clients and agencies.

Pitching is, quite naturally, a much bigger deal for clients than agencies. We pitch all the time. Clients, however, rarely have any need to think about agency reviews – no wonder then that from time to time, pitch processes can stray from best practice.

Through no fault of their own, many clients are not aware of the impact pitching has on agency businesses. It is a high cost process both in time and resource so although we love it and we all certainly need it, we don't love it when process puts an unreasonable pressure on the agencies involved.

Best practice comes right at the beginning of a pitch process when clients narrow down their list to a reasonable number of candidates. Intermediaries will say this may be around 20 to ask for an RFI submission with the aim to have four or five in the final pitch.

Each round gives the client the ability to narrow the field and gives the agency the chance to consider its participation. A large/complex RFI will take one person around 60 hours to complete with input from countless others throughout the agency. So, even at RFI stage, agencies are spending precious billable hours on a one in 20 opportunity.

Agencies are one of the only professional service providers that give away the full spectrum of their ideas and expertise during the pitching process. We are expected to provide the thinking, the solution and the activity plan and, even in the best of situations, this involves a great deal of work for a one in four or a one in five chance of winning.

If the chances of winning are decreased via the pitch conditions - too many agencies, no opportunity to talk to the marketing team during process, no face-to-face meetings – then the best agencies are unlikely to be willing to participate and to share their valuable thinking. It is the clients that lose in this situation.

It is essential that clients do their research and ask advice through the fantastic organisations available to them - IPA, ISBA, the media and the intermediary community and websites like

If clients start with a realistic field of agency candidates and the right attitude, they will end up with the right partner and the beginning of a wonderful relationship.

Carmen Bekker is Co-Chair of the IPA’s New Business Group and European Marketing Director and Business Leader of JWT London.

Tell the IPA about your pitching experience…

The IPA would like to hear from you if you are being asked to pitch on an unfair basis. This can mean an excessively long list, unprofessional conduct or unfair demands with regards to intellectual property rights. If you have a complaint, contact Melissa Thompson, the IPA’s Head of New Business, on / 020 7201 8240, or Company Secretary Tom Mott on / 020 7201 8214, or the legal team on

IPA pitching advice and resources

If you are involved in pitching you should download our comprehensive Pitch Pack, which is designed to help agencies manage the process efficiently and effectively, and so eliminate the potential for wasting precious agency resources.

All the necessary documents are available at or from the Membership team and include:

  • A pre-pitch questionnaire to help agencies clarify all the necessary details with the client
  • A non-disclosure agreement template
  • An industry-agreed request for information template – Creative
  • An industry-agreed request for information template – Media
  • Post-pitch evaluation forms
  • Client-agency contract templates
  • The 6 Pitch Principles
  • The 6 Media Pitch Principles

The IPA also offers a Pitch Protection Scheme where agencies can register their work and receive an IPA Certificate of Registration; a daily email alert for public sector tenders; information services for insight into brands and clients; and legal advice on intellectual property and contracts. Contact the IPA for more details.

We have also partnered with ISBA on a joint industry website, which outlines agreed industry best practice and alternative ways of pitching that you and your potential client may want to consider. 

Last updated 03/09/2014

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