The Pitch Process: Evolution or Reinvention?

5 Key Takeaways from Upfront Straight Talking event: How can the pitch process be improved?

Last month Upfront Business Development hosted the latest in its Straight Talking Series, bringing together over 100 agencies and brands to debate the pitch process. Robin Bonn, Founder of Co:definery, led the discussion with representatives from brand, agency, intermediary and procurement. The expert panel consisted of Carolyn McKeever, Global Head of Downstream Marketing at Shell, Nina Jasinski, Chief Marketing Officer at Ogilvy, Charlie Carpenter, Managing Director at Creativebrief and Tina Fegent, from Tina Fegent Consulting.

  1. Views on the pitch process were split 

 Creativebrief’s recent research suggested that 61% of brands and 93% of agencies didn’t think the current pitch process was fit for purpose. Upfront’s Founder, Jody Osman, kicked off the day by asking the audience their views on this. The room was evenly split between those that agreed and those who disagreed. A good starting point to continue the discussion on how it can be improved.

There was also difference in opinion amongst the panel. Nina (agency) and Tina (procurement) were in general agreement that if the proper procedures are adhered to, the pitch process largely works. From the brand perspective, Carolyn agreed that the current process is working, but recognised the many flaws for both client and agency, and called for more fluidity in relationship between those involved. Charlie, as supported by Creativebrief’s research, highlighted the growing dissatisfaction with the current process by both brands and agencies. Due to increased selectivity of agencies, brands are not always getting the agencies they necessarily want, in which Carolyn agreed, based on her experiences at Shell, where five agencies that they wanted to work with turned them down.

  1. Agency stand out is vital

In order to stand out from the crowd, Nina commented that for agencies, “reputation is definitely paramount…if you don’t understand how the client is finding you and you’re hoping that its just going to happen by luck, it’s going to take a long time for you to grow”. Carolyn agreed with this statement. Whilst she concurred that a number of boxes need to be ticked to narrow down a short list of appropriate agencies, she commented that once it gets to pitching, every agency can do everything they need across every market in every possible way and it’s therefore very difficult to make the final decision.

“That final decision comes down to: did you like the people? Was the work good? Was there chemistry? Was there any diversity at all on their panel side?” (Shell)

  1. Partnership is a complicated term

Debate continued around to what extent the pitch demonstrates a good future relationship between client and agency. Carolyn argued that the more important question to be asked is “why are we even pitching?” commenting that the pitch process doesn’t fully give a sense of how the partnership will work. Charlie added  that the pitch process doesn’t offers a “true sense” of what it will be like to work with an agency. Nina contended that this doesn’t mean that they didn’t end up happy in the choice of agency and argued that transparency on both sides will create a stronger collaboration between client and agency.  After conducting a comprehensive global agency review earlier this year, Carolyn believes that the idea of “partnership is seriously lacking”, and in order to change this, both sides need to be open to the change. Tina commented that partnership is a really tough word to use, and one procurement doesn’t use lightly.

“Agencies are suppliers and while you should try to do the most to make sure it’s a two-way relationship, it’s ultimately a client- supplier relationship.” (Tina Fegent Consulting)

Tina did note that finding out about each other is essential, so workshops within the process need to be utilised. Charlie commented that the current process in place doesn’t promote a strong partnership, and clients will find much greater value from spending significant time with the agency, as indicated in the “try before you buy” process that Creativebrief are beginning to promote. He highlighted that the narrative around leverage which procurement specialist tend to argue needs to change in order to promote a successful partnership.

  1. One size doesn’t fit all

Although disagreement on best practices, all panellists were in general agreement that there wasn’t one strict structure of the pitch process that worked for every client and agency. There are over 20,000 agencies in the UK and 40 different agency models so there isn’t going to be one solution to suit everyone. Robin argued that there is an opportunity for both brands and agencies to challenge the process in place, and there are a whole variety of different pitching models, which can be tailored depending on type, size and resource of agency.

“It’s’ incumbent on everybody to have a conversation, and to push to have that conversation about what’s the right kind of model, both on the client and on the agency side. It’s a question of taking responsibility…agencies should make sure you have the remit, responsibility and the criteria that are pertinent, and give yourself permission to have that conversation with the client.” (Co:definery)

The day ended with Robin wrapping up and offering the advice that all parties need to choose the model that is right for them. It’s not about dramatic change, but evolution of the process to eventually get the best for all involved.

  1. Still plenty more to discuss

The conversation will continue at The Drum’s Pitch Perfect event on 13th September. That evening, The BD100 awards, will celebrate the best UK business developers; bringing together the Business Development community for a night of networking, conversation, insight and celebration.
Get your ticket for Pitch Perfect, and The BD100 event here

See more highlights from the event below:

If you are interested in finding out more about Pitch Perfect, attending or speaking at any future events, please get in touch.

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Make sure you are set to win big in the second half of the year

As we pass the half way point of the year and move into the summer, it’s a good time to remind yourself of the new business objectives you set for the year. Are you on track to achieve these? It’s useful to review progress so far, look at what’s working well – and what’s not – and make sure you’re all set for a strong second half of the year.

The AAR recently reported a ‘positive diagnosis’ for new business, despite a 8.9% year-on-year drop in reviews in the first half of this year. There has been a number of major agency reviews completed by big spenders such as Shell, Camelot, Sky and Asda and momentum has picked up after a very slow first quarter. Advertising and Integrated pitches are down, media remains the same, whilst digital pitch activity is up 11.8%.

We spoke to Fran Brook, New Business Lead at MullenLowe, who shared her experience with us: “it doesn’t feel as though there has been as many new business opportunities in the first few months of this year compared to the same period in 2017. Having said that, the briefs that have gone out have been far greater in value, both creatively and financially. We now have a much clearer idea of what briefs we want to go for during the remainder of the year.”

It appears that clients are looking for more from agencies and the new business market is becoming increasingly competitive. In response, it seems that agencies are becoming more focused on what work they want to win and developing their agency models and structures accordingly. New business success is often about knowing which is the right work to pitch for and committing to this, which is likely to ensure a much higher conversion rate and a more sustainable business.

This was a topic covered at our recent Straight-Talking event which explored how the pitch process can be improved. Charlie Carpenter, Managing Director at Creativebrief, was on our panel and observed that: “agencies are now genuinely more selective about what they pitch for due to a lack of resource and the time that can be involved in a pitch process.”

Whilst the AAR report provides a positive update on the new business market, their Chief Executive Kerry Glazer goes on to warn: “The more significant issue is, however, that a similar sized new business market place is being shared out amongst an increasing number of very capable agencies.”

This can make it difficult for the client to make the right choice and it becomes increasingly important for agencies to stand out. Carolyn Mckeever, Global Head of Downstream Marketing at Shell, shared her experience with us from a recent pitch: “every agency came in and said they could do everything we wanted, across every market, in every possible way, in 4 different flavours. Which makes it very difficult to make that final decision.”

In response to this, many agencies have been reviewing their structure and ways of working, as well as paying more attention to their positioning and proposition. Ogilvy recently ditched Mather to introduce a new corporate identity as they aim to “build a new model for the industry” after streamlining and simplifying their organisation structure.

Whether it’s a formal pitch, or an opportunity without a comparative review, it’s really important to invest time into getting to know the client and bringing to life your approach. Charlie Carpenter, explained that “brands are increasingly making decisions based on approach, strategic thinking, chemistry, people, teams and ways of working.” It’s therefore important to know what you stand for as an agency and make sure this is aligned to a strong understanding of what the client actually needs.

Whilst the summer is often seen as a quiet time for new business, it’s a great time to fine tune your new business approach. Make sure that your objectives for the year are realistic and appropriate for your business – are you going after the right type of business? Then give yourself the best chance to achieve this by ensuring your proposition is relevant to the market today and highly focused. And make sure you have everything in place to deliver on this. By doing this you can make sure you stand out from the rest and maximize your chances of success over the coming months.

Get in touch if you’d like to discuss further.

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Stay Ahead with June’s Movers and Shakers

Working in Business Development, it’s hard to keep track of all the changes and the latest Movers & Shakers. Each month, our data and insight team at Upstream provide a monthly round up of the new appointments to help you stay ahead.

Here are June’s Movers and Shakers we recommend that you keep an eye on:

Liz Darran has been appointed Marketing Director at Compare The Market. She has moved from Sky where she was Director of Brand Marketing.

Sainsbury’s has promoted Clodagh Moriarty from Director of Online to Group Chief Digital Officer. Moriarty will create and lead digital strategy across Sainsbury’s, Argos, Sainsbury’s Bank and Nectar with immediate effect.

Kirsty Keaveney has been appointed Brand Manager of Warburtons. She has moved from Living Ventures Group of Companies where she was Brand Marketing Manager.

Jon Brook has joined Interflora as Head of Marketing. He was previously as Inchcape where he was also Head of Marketing.

Mars has promoted former Chief Marketing & Customer Officer, Andrew Clarke, to Global President of Mars Wrigley Confectionery. He is replacing Martin Radvan, who is retiring after being at Mars for 32 years.

If you would like to keep up to date on the latest movers & shakers as they happen each day, then you can stay ahead with our data and insight platform Stay Upstream. Click here to find out more.

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Stay Ahead with May’s Movers and Shakers

Working in Business Development, it’s hard to keep track of all the changes and the latest Movers & Shakers. Each month, our data and insight team at Upstream provide a monthly round up of the new appointments to help you stay ahead.

Here are May’s Movers and Shakers we recommend that you keep an eye on:

Amanda Hill has joined Harrods where she has become Chief Marketing & Customer Officer. She has moved from A+E Networks in New York, where she was also Chief Marketing Officer. Hill’s appointment signals a new direction in creative marketing for both Harrods’ store and online operations. The Department Store has also appointed Jodie Blackbrough as their new Head of Online Content. She has moved from Harvey Nichols where she was Head of Brand & Customer Marketing.

Pentland Brands has promoted Helen Yarnall from Digital Communications Manager to Head of UK Shopper Marketing- Active Division.

Alexis Berger has been appointed Marketing Director, Stella Artois Europe at Anheuser-Busch InBev. She was previously Global Marketing Director, Stella Artois in the New York office.

Ryanair has promoted Chiara Ravara from Senior Sales and Marketing Manager to Head of Sales and Marketing. Ryanair also announced it’s ‘Thanks a Billion’ sale this month to celebrate the platform getting a total of one billion visits.

Red Bull has promoted former Head of Marketing, Peter Charles to Managing Director. Peter has been at Red Bull since 2014 joining as Head of Brand, having previously been at Pepsico for nine years.

Former Chief Commercial Officer of EasyJet, Peter Duffy has moved to Just Eat where he has become the company’s first Chief Customer Officer. This news was announced the same week that Just Eat confirmed the departure of Barnaby Dawe as Global Chief Marketing Officer. Barnaby was responsible for signing a continuous sponsorship deal with The X Factor, which was estimated to be worth near £30 million.

Dr. Martens has appointed Kenny Wilson as its new CEO. Dr. Martens has not had a CEO since Steve Murray left the position late last year. Wilson has moved from Cath Kidston where has was also CEO.

James Heywood has left Amazon where he was former Director, Electronics. He has moved to Uber where he was Regional General Manager, Northern & Eastern Europe.

Camilla Hoskisson has joined AIG Europe, where she has become digital marketing manager. She has moved from MetLife where she was Digital Marketing and Customer Experience Manager.

Jaguar Land Rover has had a large restructure of its marketing department. Former Chief Marketing Officer, Felix Brautigam, who joined the company in November has become Chief Commercial Officer. Fiona Pargeter has been promoted from Global PR Communications Director to Customer Experience Director. Anthony Bradbury has also changed roles from Global Communications Director to UK Marketing Director.

Nicola Pearle has joined Sweaty Betty as Head of Brand. She has joined from Net-A-Porter, where she was former Senior Marketing Manager, Maternity Cover.

If you would like to keep up to date on the latest movers & shakers as they happen each day, then you can stay ahead with our data and insight platform Stay Upstream. Click here to find out more.

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10 Tips for a Successful New Business Meeting

Whether you are new or experienced to driving new business meetings, holding meetings with client prospects face-to-face requires a whole range of communication and sales skills.

To be successful it’s important to do your research and understand how you want the meeting to be structured. Whilst chemistry will be a big factor, it’s important not just to turn up to see how you ‘get on’, or to focus too much on your credentials carrying you through. Even if it has been positioned as casual, a prospective client will always be looking for more than just an informal chat.

Here are our top 10 tips to make sure you have a good first meeting:

Tip 1 – Know your audience.

Even if the client has told you not to prepare anything, they will always expect you to demonstrate that you know a bit about them, their brand, the way they work– and importantly, that you’re interested in working with them

Before deciding on what you will need to cover, and the best method of delivering this, here are some key considerations:

  • Who is attending the new business meeting?
  • What are their specific job roles, and reasons for attending the meeting? Sometimes you cannot get this information in advance. In the event that this is the case, it is advisable to ask them to introduce themselves and what they are looking to achieve from the meeting at the outset.
  • How many people will you be meeting?
    This will affect whether or not you choose to use a presentation or use a more informal medium like questions and answers. The more people present, the greater the requirement to use a presentation.

Tip 2 – Understand objectives.

What are you looking to get out of this meeting, and what are the objectives for the prospect? In most B2B sales situations, as the agency supplier you are looking to gain some form of decision from the prospect to move to some agreed next steps. These agreements (commonly referred to as “decision based objectives”) can be anything from a further meeting with the same people, additional meetings with other decision makers, a request for a proposal, an invitation to pitch or a commitment to appoint you.

However, you are most unlikely to achieve any one of these if the prospect does not see a “win-win” outcome from the solution you are offering. Good new business people are able to put themselves in the shoes of the buyer and ask themselves, “What does the client want to see proof of today?” This could be relevant experience, or a particular expertise. It is therefore essential that you understand their existing situation and provide a bespoke solution to differentiate yourself from the competition.

Tip 3 – Do your research.

Irrespective of your offer, you must do some research into the client before any sales meeting. The amount and detail required for this is dependent upon the size of business and the opportunity on offer to you. As a simple rule of thumb, the greater the opportunity, the greater the amount of research required. It is difficult to define exactly what you must research, since this varies considerably from service to service, but what the company does, how large they are as an organisation, and their previous and current situation concerning your service offering are the bare minimum. Along with this, who you are meeting, and their specific role in the process.

Tip 4 – Be punctual and be prepared.

Turning up late will immediately give a bad impression. Arrive at least 15 minutes early. You may only have a short period of time to win over a client and turning up late eats into this. If you cut it fine then you will miss out on valuable time to compose yourself, as well as affording time to set yourself up with any presentation and other technical requirements. Check ahead to find out what the setup is- Do they have a screen you can present on? Do they have the necessary cables? There can always be the unforeseen glitch, but this can make a big difference on timing and how you are perceived at a time where first impressions are critical.

Tip 5 – Introduce yourself!

This may sound obvious, but it is surprising how often this is skipped. Make sure you let the client know who each of you are, your background and what you do within the company. It’s a good chance to sell yourself, add personality, as well as helping the client understand why you are there and what you would be doing for them. Involve the client in the introductions too- it’s important to know their role and what they do to help shape your questioning and conversation, to ensure it is as relevant as possible to each individual.

Tip 6 – Have a good structure

If this has already been discussed in communication prior to the meeting, then it is good idea to repeat this in your opening to make sure expectations match up, particularly if the meeting has been booked by someone who is not actually attending.

For a typical first meeting with a prospective client, here is what we’d recommend:

  • Opening – be clear about why you are here, how you will run the meeting, and what you expect the outcome to be. You can also validate if this is consistent with those in the room.
  • Identify the need – clear, concise questions to establish the prospects current situation, their challenges specific to your service offering, and their criteria for selecting any supplier.
  • Presentation – this is your opportunity to pitch your service offering to the prospect. This should be bespoke to the prospect, and based upon your understanding of their specific needs.
  • Deal with objections that arise – very rarely do clients agree to appoint you without having some concerns, so make sure you understand what the questions are really asking and answer them effectively.
  • Agree next actions – in small sales processes with deals of relatively low value, you may be able to close the deal on the day. In larger sales cycles, this may be the first of many and your “close” is on a further meeting.

Tip 7 – Make sure you understand where you are in the cycle.

It is always important that you understand what stage you are at in your sales cycle. As examples, your meeting could be any one of:

  • First meeting – exploring client situation and challenge
  • Presentation of your service or a specific aspect of it
  • Negotiation of sale
  • Contractual terms and agreeing ways of working

Clearly, each meeting would need to be introduced and delivered very differently. The first meeting is going to be very question based, as you explore every aspect of the client situation relevant to your offering. However, when finalising a contract, you may be establishing the rules of working on the project you have been awarded.

Tip 8 – Develop an eye-catching presentation.

Sometimes the best meetings don’t involve you even opening a laptop as this can allow for free flowing discussion. But it’s always important to be prepared, as many clients will insist on this as a preference. Using a poorly prepared and visually unattractive presentation can decrease the overall value of your pitch. This is particularly so in larger sales cycles, or where the nature of the service you are selling is linked to quality based technology or creative solutions. A few simple rules to avoid this happening are:

– Make the presentation visually interesting.

– Do not overuse words and bullets. If I can present or read the content of your presentation without you being there, then it is a poor presentation. You want to help bring your discussion to life rather than distract from it. Only rely on key phrases or topic headers. Additionally, keep it punchy – a maximum of 10 slides should suffice to cover key agenda points.

– Always have a backup. This speaks for itself. If your laptop does not work, you need to have some mechanism for transferring your presentation onto a client workstation instead.

– If the client reduces the time you have to pitch, do not rush through a 30 minute presentation in five minutes. Discuss the most salient points or re-appoint to another time. Make sure that you know in advance how much time you will have and plan your presentation accordingly.

Tip 9 – Don’t Overrun.

A long meeting isn’t always a good meeting. You should know in advance how much time you have, and the client may be on a tight schedule. Often a Marketing Director will have their day booked out with back-to-back hour meetings and therefore if one meeting takes longer, it will have a knock on effect to a tightly structured day. Sometimes the preference is for 45 minutes to allow time to catch up in-between meetings. If the client reduces the time, focus on more salient points and make sure you leave time for questions. If the meeting has gone well and the client seems happy to keep talking then make the most of this. However, it’s always a good idea to check that that they are ok for time, otherwise you could be eating into their day.

Tip 10 – Agree next steps.

No matter how good your meeting went, and regardless of how impressive you were, if there are no agreed next steps, there is no sale. As discussed earlier, the next steps can be any number of things dependent upon the stage at which you currently are in the overall process. However, agreeing these is in the interest of you as a salesperson, and prospects who invariably do not want to waste their time on meetings that do not go anywhere.

It should be noted that this does not mean, “Close… close… close…!” The next action needs to be based upon clearly defined outcomes and objectives to progress to the next stage. If all the other steps above are followed, this will be no more than a straightforward summary of the meeting, the objectives of the prospect (as understood by you) and your proposed solution and follow up. Be as specific as you can with timing of next actions. And if you agree a next step, make sure you keep to it!

If you’d like to find out more, or need help securing new business meetings in the first place, please get in touch.

You may also find our article ‘Life’s a Pitch’ of interest.

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Stay Ahead with April’s Movers and Shakers

Working in Business Development, it’s hard to keep track of all the changes and the latest Movers & Shakers. Each month, our data and insight team at Upstream provide a monthly round up of the new appointments to help you stay ahead.

Here are April’s Movers and Shakers we recommend that you keep an eye on:

Abigail Comber has left British Airways after 26 years where she was Global Head of Brand and Marketing. Comber’s credentials include relaunching the brand’s slogan ‘To fly. To Serve.’ She will be replaced by Hamish McVey, who was previously Head of Product.

Elliot Pritchard has been promoted at Avis from Online Marketing Director to International Marketing Director. He is now leading marketing for Avis, Budget & Zipcar in EMEA and APAC.

Katherine Whitton is leaving Barclaycard, where she was Chief Marketing Officer. She is moving to Specsavers where she will replace Global Brand Director, Richard Holmes, who announced his retirement after 11 years at the company.

Caroline Hipperson has moved to Holland & Barrett where she has been appointed CMO. She has moved from Bacardi where she was Global VP of Martini.

Bianca Richter has left Beats by Dr. Dre where she was Brand Director. She has moved to Nike where she has taken on the same position as Brand Director.

Rebecca Barrie has left British Airways where she was the Head of Marketing Strategy, Planning & Performance. She has moved to Corinthia Hotels, where she has taken the position of Senior Director of Marketing.

Odeon has appointed Chris Bates as Commercial and Marketing Director, UK & Ireland. He has moved from John Lewis where he was Head of CRM and Digital Marketing.

Austin Noorkoiv has joined Jack Wills as Global Digital Marketing Manager. He was formerly Digital Marketing Manager at Pentland Brands. This move has come soon after Jack Wills had its online debut in Asia on Zalora.

Richard Myers has moved to Vita Coco where he has been appointed Marketing Director. He was previously at Meantime Brewing Company where he was also Marketing Director.

Meera Patel has been hired as Head of Marketing for Sport & Lifestyle at Swarovski UK. She has moved from BHB Private, where she was Head of Partnerships and Marketing. Swarovski also announced its recent appointment of Publicis 133 as its new global creative agency, after a pitch process including over twenty agencies.

SIG plc has appointed Stacey Morgan as their new UK Sales & Marketing Director. She has moved from Flogas Britain where she was previously Sales and Marketing Director. SIG has also promoted former category director, Lee Caffrey to Marketing and Development Director.

Jessica Shepherd has been promoted from International Brand and Digital Director to Strategy Director of Debenhams. Her new role will involve the overseeing of the brand’s strategy, though she will not be appointed to the firm’s board.

AccorHotels has had a shuffle of its marketing team, hiring Laura Lester as their new Head of Marketing- Eco Brands. Laura has moved from Odeon Cinemas where she was brand manager. Anna Jouannon, a former Digital Marketing and Communications Teacher, has also joined the hotel operator as Head of B2B Marketing.

If you would like to keep up to date on the latest movers & shakers as they happen each day, then you can stay ahead with our data and insight platform Upstream. Click here to find out more.

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The Drum’s RAR Awards Winners Announced

Earlier this week, The Drum hosted the annual RAR Awards, recognising the most highly respected agencies. The RAR awards are based solely on clients rating agencies that they have chosen through the register’s platform.

The biggest brands, including Nestle, Merlin Entertainment and Diageo, were required to give their opinion on agencies across industries.

The RAR then download these ratings from its database to see which agencies are the highest-rated by clients. The awards recognise these agencies. The winners reflect a clear regard their clients, who have rated them highly via

Grand Prix Winners

The Big Group was awarded the Grand Prix in the 100+ staff category. Established in 1991 and with a total of 131 staff today, the independent creative agency also broke into Econsultancy’s Annual Top 100 Digital agencies report top 50 for the 1st time last year.

In the 40-99 staff members category, Love took home the Grand Prix Award. Established in 2001, Love has won over 300 awards, including recognition by D&AD and voted global “Design Agency of the Year” by The Drum in 2015.

BURN and TMC Strategic Communications both won awards for agencies with under 40 staff members. This was impressively the third year in a row for TMC. The Manchester based agency took home several awards in this category, including design and B2B marketing.

Other Notable Winners

RRD took home several awards in the 100+ category, winning for Client Service, Creativity and innovation, Print and Service Delivery. They were also nominated in five other groupings

BURN also won for awards for Strategic Thinking and Data category, and was nominated in five other groupings in Agencies with under 40 members.

Refinery Marketing Communications also cleaned up in the 40-99 staff members category, winning in both Strategic Thinking and Direct Marketing. They were also nominated in 12 out of all 14 groupings.

The full list of winning agencies in the large, medium and small categories can be found here.

It was fantastic to see a number of Upfront clients recognised for their hard work and contribution to the industry. Congratulations to all agencies that were nominated and well done to all the category winners. This should  provide a great reference point for any future clients and confidence that you will deliver consistently.

It’s also great for new business and we know first hand how important the RAR can be when establishing credibility and confidence with future clients. If you’d like to find out more about how the RAR can help you to win new business, please get in contact.

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Campaign Live’s School Reports 2018

Campaign has recently published its annual school reports for 2018, the definitive listing of the UK’s most successful agencies. The Top 100 lists are collected by Nielsen based on the account and billing information given by agencies.

Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO remained at the top of the list of creative agencies for another year, despite it suffering a 17.2% loss in billings from 2017 and the high profile loss of the Sainsbury’s account to Wieden & Kennedy after 35 years as a client. Abbott Mead’s victory highlights an increasingly challenging landscape and the importance of new business to bounce back from unexpected client losses.

A 10.8% annual increase in billings led to Adam & Eve/DDB taking second spot, replacing McCann Erickson. After being named Campaign’s Advertising Agency of the Year 2017, Adam & Eve/DDB followed this up with a great year of wins, including GWR, Sky Sports and EA Sports.

VCCP, who described 2017 as its best year ever, moved from eighth place to fifth. The agency won a total of 24 accounts last year, the most notable being Cadbury and Domino’s after an intensive pitching process. The agency was also recognised by the AAR as top new business agency for the seventh year in a row. VCCP is clearly prioritising and excelling on the new business front, ranked no 1 by the AAR for their pitch success last year.

Campaign’s 2018 School Report also unveiled The Top 20 Media Agencies. Mediacom remained at the top spot, winning a total of 36 accounts last year, its biggest being PSA Group. The Agency predicts that its success in 2018 will rely largely on its biggest client, Sky, who this month is due to complete its first media review in 13 years.

PHD should also be mentioned here. It’s near loss of one its biggest clients, Sainsbury’s (who was reviewing both its advertising and media agencies) was one of the most talked about pitch processes in recent years. Despite the stress of this, and losing in total 6 accounts, the win of Argos resulted in a 52.6% increase in billings, resulting in the agency rising from tenth place to sixth. This again is another example highlighting how new business is vital for underpinning agency success.

See Campaign Live’s full school reports here

This year’s school reports allude to the fact that the current tougher backdrop is hitting the biggest and most successful agencies. Yet the ones that continue to thrive are those that put new business at the forefront of their agenda.

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Stay Ahead with March’s Movers and Shakers

Working in Business Development, it’s hard to keep track of all the changes and the latest Movers & Shakers. Each month, our data and insight team at Upstream provide a monthly round up of the new appointments to help you stay ahead.

Here are March’s Movers and Shakers we recommend that you keep an eye on:

Claudia Parker has joined Ebookers as their new Head of PR. She has moved from Cineworld, where she was PR & Social Media Manager.

Emma Hjalmarsson has left AKQA, where she was Account Manager. She has moved to H&M where she has taken the position of Marketing Concept Manager.

Opus Energy has appointed Sam Moore as Head of Digital Strategy. She has joined from Carlsberg Group where she was Head of Digital for Carlsberg UK.

Claire Butters has been appointed UK&I Marketing Manager at Brooks Running. She has joined from ASICS, where she was Head of Trade Marketing.

Jess Christie, former Director of PR & Communications at Matches Fashion has been promoted. She has taken on her new role as Chief Brand Officer. One of her biggest projects this year will be the launch of 5 Carlos Place- the brand’s new space in Mayfair.

Aston Martin has promoted Gerhard Fourie from Director of Brand Strategy to Director of Marketing and Brand Strategy. His new role will include the added responsibility for global marketing, CRM and launch planning.

Shane Hoyne has left Bacardi where he was Chief Marketing Officer- Europe. He has moved to Quintessential Brands where he has taken the same role as Chief Marketing Officer.

Former Marketing Director of Topman, Jason Griffiths has been promoted to Group Brand Communications Director of Arcadia Group.

Harvey Nichols has appointed Deborah Bee as their new Group Marketing and Creative Director. She has left Eco-Age where she was formerly Brand Director.

Catherine Hogg has been appointed Senior Marketing Manager, Sky Store at BSKYB British Sky Broadcasting. She has moved from Hello Fresh, where she was CRM Marketing Manager.

If you would like to keep up to date on the latest movers & shakers as they happen each day, then you can stay ahead with our data and insight platform Upstream. Click here to find out more.

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Life’s a Pitch

Agency pitching has been a hot topic this month, with many once again questioning the traditional pitch process. Clearly it works for some, just ask VCCP (winners of AAR’s new business ranking) and Engine and Snap who in same report are reportedly enjoying an 87.5% conversion rate. However, for many, a lot of time and effort can be expended with little hope of success – or recognition for your efforts.

It was disappointing, but not surprising, to read Harry Lang’s article in Campaign, deploring the lack of manners shown by BMW to the agencies pitching for its ad business in the US. It’s reported that BMW initially selected 25 agencies to pitch, before shortlisting to 5. It was a long, drawn affair and likely that each of these agencies invested considerably in the process. However, after GS&P won the account, many of the others only then found out the result through social media or AdAge.

The problem is, an account like BMW is a BIG client for most: global car brand, big spend, and a parade float for the winner. If you think you have a chance of winning it – be it 1 in 25 or 1 in 5 – you are likely to want to give it your best shot. Just imagine, winning BMW and being able to add that to the client list. They know that too.

The reward has to justify the risk. Pitching for a major account, you will have to commit a lot of time and money and no guarantee of any work, payment or even, as in the BMW case, feedback. However, it’s not just the big spending clients out there who are often asking a lot from agencies during the pitch process…

As marketing budgets continue to feel the strain of the current economic backdrop, new business is becoming increasingly competitive at all levels of spend – many agencies are having to invest considerable time and effort into winning what previously would have been regarded as low value projects. And even then, it’s not always guaranteed the work will materialise.

One agency I spoke to recently found themselves in talks with a brand who were not happy with their incumbent agency and looking to change, quickly. Discussions went well and they were actively encouraged to provide a proposal for the work. It therefore came as a surprise to find themselves in a competitive pitch against 5 other agencies – including the incumbent – for a project with a value of under £50k. Then despite being told by the client that they thought they were the best option, they were going to stick with the incumbent for the time being….

It’s hardly surprising that many are now suggesting it’s time for a viable, streamlined alternative to the traditional pitch. Creativebrief are calling for more appropriate, responsible, ethical and effective alternative that is fit for today’s business environment and the topic of a recent event suggested ridding the agency of the pitch as we know it.

Whilst recent concerns have been raised over the way some pitches are managed, there is nothing quite like a big pitch to bring the best out of an agency. There will be many agencies out there who will be happy and comfortable with the way the process currently works. Those that get invited for the most pitches can maximize their chances and fine tune themselves for consistent success.

Last month saw the AAR post its annual new business survey, with VCCP ranked as top new business agency for the seventh straight year with 21 wins, including Cadbury and Britvic – from 31 opportunities (converting two-thirds).

The AAR’s Managing Partner Martin Jones wrote that “The accolade of being the agency that most clients chose to pitch when they had a free choice is arguably the best indicator of an agency’s new-business skills.”

Engine and Snap achieved the highest conversion rate of 87.5%, although this was only from undertaking 8 pitches, which highlights the importance of being selective about the type of work you go for.

Turning down pitches is easier said than done given the current economic climate, but for agencies of all sizes, it’s important to make sure you focus your time and effort on the right type of opportunities and where you have the best chance of success.

As a Business Development agency, a big objective for many of our clients is to help them get on pitch lists. However, a lot of our success has been helping our clients avoid them, especially the long drawn out ones. For us it’s about building relationships and identifying what the client needs, often before they realise it.

With brands reviewing the way they work with agencies and looking for different solutions, perhaps it is time to start looking at the pitch process. More so, it is about finding the right mechanism brands to find right agency partners – and vice versa. Pitches expectations should be appropriate to the scale of the opportunity and well defined, not used as a speculative process to look at the market or drive down price of existing suppliers. That way, agencies will have the confidence to keep giving their all to deliver you the perfect pitch.

From an agency perspective, there is nothing quite like the excitement of making it on to the short-list for an agency pitch for an exciting client and as they say, you’ve got to be in it to win it! it’s unlikely the process as we know it is unlikely to disappear anytime soon, so it’s important you assess each opportunity on it’s own merit. How well is the brief defined, what is the client like to deal with, how many agencies are involved and what is the budget are all good things to establish at the outset before deciding to invest your valuable time and effort on trying to win it.

According to jfdi’s 2017 New Business Barometer, the average pitch conversion rate was 41%. Pitch success can be down to leadership, talent and process. Agencies should always be striving to increase this and it’s always worth reviewing your approach. Make sure whether you win or lose, you get feedback as to why.

We will be exploring how the pitch process can be improved on 12th June 2018 at Soho Hotel, bringing together perspectives from clients, agencies, intermediary and procurement. Click here to find out more and be part of the discussion.

How Can the Pitch Process Be Improved?

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