Sometimes it’s awkward to make the news
I always worry for people who hire Max Clifford. Not because he isn’t an effective publicist. He clearly is. It’s just that when someone you’ve never heard of engages Clifford, you know that Max has immediately become the story. It is a bit like that with Robert Jay of Leveson Inquiry fame. And I mean fame. He’s the star – the Perry Mason, the William Garrow, the guy in the John Grisham novel. Jay’s voice, his whiskers, his encyclopaedic grasp of dates, documents and potential misdeeds are Leveson to most of us.
So I felt a bit uncomfortable last week announcing Mutual Decision TM, AAI’s proprietary new pitch system. Pitches belong to the clients who want new agencies, and the agencies who want new clients. So why is a mere consultant launching a rival to the tried, tested, and traditional way of doing things? You know, RFIs flying out to dozens of agencies, more chemistry meetings than chemistry classes at school, a brief inviting five or six agencies to compete for the Golden Apple by preparing a free campaign, more iterations by the finalists, two rounds of research and three to four months entertainment for all.
The truth is, it may be the traditional way of doing things (albeit a relatively recent and substantially flawed tradition), and it has been tried often (not least by us, I confess), but it has tested badly. It is unnecessarily long drawn-out. It is nakedly exploitative. It is seriously expensive, not least for the client in terms of time and opportunity cost, and especially for the pitching agencies. Nor is there any evidence that a creative contest is a reliable way of developing the campaign the client wants to run tomorrow. Estimates vary, but most experts would settle for less than 20% of pitch creative going live.
Worse, there is still less evidence that this jamboree is a good prelude to a long and synergistic relationship. My analysis is that the process is too one-sided to segue naturally into a balanced partnership. Also in the four cases out of five when the winning shop’s creative has been turned down, the relationship kicks off with creative tension, probably exacerbated by the inevitable hassle over remuneration.
Mutual Decision TM is a new way of doing pitches, which is far more likely to find the right agency for the client, and the right client for the agency. It should deliver a productive relationship from a standing start. It is also much fairer, faster and less costly.
Sometimes you cannot afford to wait for the newsmakers if you believe in change. I very much hope that clients and agencies will choose to adopt our new way of doing things. That would be a win/win. OK, you’re right. If that happens, it will be a win for us too!