Pitches are for choosing an agency, not a campaign

The lead story in the latest edition of Campaign (29th June) is about Lloyds Banking Group allegedly calling a pitch on a project called Project Verde. In the first paragraph the journalist Anne Cassidy says, “Lloyds has called a multimillion-pound pitch to create the advertising to support the launch”.

I think the quote is very interesting from two aspects: the pitch (not the assignment that follows) being multimillion-pound), and the assertion that the pitch (not the relationship that follows with the winning agency) is to create the campaign.

I have no knowledge at all whether the story itself is true, or whether the idea is to create the campaign at the pitch itself. I can easily understand that the campaign would cost a few bob, and that the agency list would be on the lines of the quality mixture of established players and newcomers listed.

LBG and the agencies (if they are indeed under consideration) are consenting adults. It is a free country and an open market between clients and agencies. My question is more generalised: should it be the function of a pitch to create a launch campaign? Or would it be better for our industry if clients chose agency partners on the basis of track record, reputation and people – and then briefed the winning agency to create a campaign within a working commercial relationship?

At AAI we started the Mutual Decision™ initiative to try and promote quicker, less expensive, more effective, and less exploitative pitches. That is because we believe that agency/client relationships are likely to last longer, and be more productive and successful if they start that way. There is no evidence that agencies who are good at speculative creative sprints deliver more value over the long term. There is conclusive evidence that around four out of five “winning campaigns” fail to reach the marketplace, also that the cost of big pitches is massive.