Ad Agency Pitch Killing Mistakes

Last Batch: Ad Agency Pitch Killing Mistakes

images dohThis is the third installment of my list of 16 ad agency pitch mistakes made by, um, you Ms. Ad Agency CEO, Business Development Director, Creative Director and other pitch team members.

This list is in my book, “The Levitan Pitch. Buy This Book. Win More Pitches.” Amazon is holding your copy for you right here.

I’d like to reiterate what I said in part one of the series:

This expert list is one of the last chapters in the book. I consider it a coda to my detailed advice on how to nail a presentation. In this case, I wanted to see what people who have listened to thousands of hours of sales presentations from what should be the best presenters in business (advertising, digital, PR and media agency executives) had to say about mistakes that occur all too often.

“All to often”. Yes, I know it’s crazy. Have you made these pitch killing mistakes? According to these consultants…. You do.

Debbie Morrison: Director of Consultancy and Best Practice, ISBA, thegoodpitch.com, UK

In terms of things agencies do wrong in pitch presentations, the biggest howler I have come across which instantly alienates the client, is disharmony in the agency pitch team!

Either the session is dominated by one senior person and no other agency team members ‘dare’ or are given the chance to input. Or there have been times I’ve experienced in pitches when there has been obvious hostility between agency team members resulting in open warfare during the pitch presentation! Highly off putting and results in an instant de-listing in most cases!

Dan Pearlman: CEO/Managing Partner, Bob Wolf Partners/TPG, California

In answer to your question:
Most agencies don’t pay enough attention to the chemistry and culture aspects of their pitch. Where do the philosophies and values of their firm align with those of the client? Are your people communicating well and easily with each other in the pitch? How are your folks attired vs. those on the client side? Do they talk numbers and you talk general concepts? Are they all business and you’re all smiley? Be careful of glaring disconnects.

Finally, be careful what you wish for…the client may not be right for you to deliver superior work.

Stuart Pocock: Managing Partner, Roth Observatory, UK

Tricky question – there are lots of mistakes they can make – but a key one is not fully understanding the Client’s business issues and how the work they are proposing will impact them.

Brian Sparks, Managing Director: Agency Assessments International, UK and Ireland

Agencies spend far too much time talking about themselves and not enough time addressing the problems of the client. Clients want to hear solutions to their problems, not how great the agency thinks it is. Best advice to agencies – focus on the client, demonstrate real understanding of their issues, unearth commercial as well as consumer insight, keep it simple, and make it memorable!

Joan Weinberg: Agency Select, Hong Kong

In 15 years I’ve sat in on hundreds of pitch calls. The agencies forget this one maxim: It’s like going on a first date.

It all starts before the pitch but here goes, my top four pitch problems.

  1. Agencies that spend more than 3 minutes talking about their agency
  2. Agencies that don’t have someone present strictly to take notes
  3. Agencies that don’t have a sense of humor
  4. Agencies that stick to a script

David Wethey:
 Chairman, Agency Assessments International, UK

Hard to pick just one reason when I am drawing on AAI’s 26 years of experience of pitches in over 30 countries!! Guess I’ve seen most of the mistakes – as well as some brilliant winning efforts.

Some summary thoughts:

Nearly all pitches are won, not lost. It’s like sport. When we win, we want to believe we have played brilliantly. When we lose… it’s because of a refereeing decision, the absence of a key team member through injury, an aberration in the defense. Whatever. But it usually isn’t that. It’s generally because the opposition played better.

A pitch (a proper pitch) is a process, not one two hour session, and losing agencies have frequently made mistakes early on and compounded them.

Pitches that rely on agencies providing £100,000+ of free creative are a lottery (average cost per agency of a major pitch in the UK £178,000 in 2010), and often agencies win and lose through entirely subjective client decisions. That’s why I don’t run those pitches any more. Either the client pays, or we use different selection criteria.

Most culpable mistakes? Not rehearsing. Running out of time. Not using a pitch doctor to give a frank view of what the presentation looks like to an outsider. Poor casting. Lying about some aspect of the agency’s capability or track record. Cultural errors (especially by US or UK- run international agencies in developing markets).

Here Are My Top Of The Pops: The Mistakes You Have To Avoid

According to the pitch consultants, certain errors seem to be made over and over. I’d read this hard.

1. There’s A Whole Lot Of Yapping Going On

  • “Ten minutes of agency droning on about anything other than the client’s business feels like an eternity to the client. Get to points quickly, connect everything back to client’s business, and get the client talking too.” (Laura Bajkowski)
  • “Top pitching tip: Agencies need to prove to their prospects that they believe in their mission, vision, and beliefs, not just in the product they’re selling. How? By LISTENING! Listening is a lost art. (Lisa Colantuono)
  • “Virtually every agency goes on for far too long about itself and its team. Cut to the chase. Talk about how the brief has been solved, and get to the answer quickly.” (Paul Bainsfair.)

2. It’s About The Client, Not Your Agency

  • “No one, in fact, wants to “buy” advertising, or media, or digital, or public relations. Rather, prospects are interested in solving their Business Issues. 
Smart agencies bond with prospects around their problem – their business issue – not the agency solution.” (Robin Boehler)
  • “Single biggest mistake is forgetting the client’s brief.” (Joanne Davis.)
  • “In my opinion, the worst mistake agencies make when presenting is concentrating the pitch on their overall capabilities and not enough on the client’s specific business goals and objectives.” (Mike Drexler)
  • “There are lots of mistakes they can make – but a key one is not fully understanding the Client’s business issues and how the work they are proposing will impact them.” (Stuart Pocock)
  • “Agencies that spend more than 3 minutes talking about their agency. (Joan Weinberg)

3. Culture & Vibes

  • “I am going to give you one mistake that agencies make that is very common, and while it may not be the “killer” error, it is one that does a great deal in failing to communicate that the agency is a well oiled team that has respect for each other, likes each other, finds their team members interesting and believes that they are lucky to be part of that team.” (Jerry Gibbons)
  • “In terms of things agencies do wrong in pitch presentations, the biggest howler I have come across which instantly alienates the client, is disharmony in the agency pitch team!” (Debbie Morrison)
  • “In answer to your question:
Most agencies don’t pay enough attention to the chemistry and culture aspects of their pitch.” (Dan Pearlmen)
  • “Don’t take too many drugs.” (Peter Cowie)

4. And…

“Most culpable mistakes? Not rehearsing. Running out of time. Not using a pitch doctor to give a frank view of what the presentation looks like to an outsider. Poor casting. Lying about some aspect of the agency’s capability or track record. Cultural errors (especially by US or UK- run international agencies in developing markets). (David Wethey)

 That’s it.

Just imagine that the other agencies pitching for the big Widget account didn’t read this blog post. Or, my book for that matter. I think that if you pay attention to these agency search consultants — you will dramatically increase your chances of winning.

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Business-building tips from over 30 years running ad agencies.

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