Pitching to solve problems is destroying the industry

Rosie Baker
By Rosie Baker | 4 September 2015

Long-standing agency client relationships are becoming fewer and farther between, as shifts in contacts mean more retainers are being ditched in favour of project work. But clients' tendencies to call a pitch to solve a problem, and an unwillingness to work to improve relationships is on the way to destroying the industry, it seems. Marketers from Telstra and Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) as well as agencies The Works and Host spoke on the theme – and the importance of realigning the importance of healthy relationships was in focus at last night's Effie Awards.

Meat & Livestock Australia won the Inaugural Effective Advertiser of the Year, an award created to celebrate clients that champion effectiveness.

Andrew Howie, head of marketing at Meat & Livestock Australia, accepted the award and made an impassioned speech about the importance of building and respecting client agency relationships, and not turning to pitching to solve every problem.

“As clients we have a responsibility to foster strong and long lasting relationships in order to produce the best work possible, A grave culture of pitching to solve relationship problems is driving what we do into the ground.

“As an industry it's imperative that we are more supporting of each other in the pursuit of making better work. It's no secret that brilliant insights fuel great creative work and it is that work that ultimately is the most effective, but that journey to greatness is often frought with danger. What better way to navigate that danger than with old and trusted friends.

“Thank you to our agency partners for helping us deliver some of the most effective work in the country. This is a people industry and it's the people and the relationships that we have that allow MLA to prosper. We are custodians of a long culture of excellence and I am very privileged to be able to have an influence over that if only for a short time.”

The event, held in Doltone house in Sydney, recognised work that not only looks good – but performs well. Effectiveness goes beyond a slick creative, and although that helps, it requires agencies to prove what the work achieved.

The night saw Saatchi & Saatchi named the Effectiveness Agency of the year, largely on the back of success with its Penny the Pirate campaign for OPSM, which won two of four Gold Effies handed out. The Works and Canadian Club won the Grand Effie.

Opening the night, Effies chair Anthony Freedman, CEO and founder of Host, also said that proving effectiveness is what stops advertising and marketing being “dismissed as superficial” in the face of ever more “sceptical” CFOs.

“Effies is a year round endeavour to build a culture of effectiveness in the industry. I can't emphasise how important it is in both marketing departments and agencies to determine what success looks like at the outset of our work and then measure it at its conclusion. Without demonstrating and proving success, our work can all too easily be dismissed as superficial colour and movement and we know nothing can be further from the truth,” said Freedman.

Inese Kingsmill, Telstra corporate marketing director and chair of the AANA, also spoke last night on the importance of respectful partnerships with agencies and said that great marketing can only happen when there is a good relationship there. Those relationships, she said, are being tested now more than ever.

She called the present time the technological equivalent of the industrial revolution, adding that this generation of marketers is the first not to have been handed the playbook of how best to do things by the generation before.

“The Effies represent the fruits of our labour … they are a clear reflection of the partnership that exists between clients and agencies. That relationship has never been more important, and I would say it's never been more tested. Our industry is diverse and challenging and constantly changing There's disruption absolutely everywhere in the form of new technology, new business models and new entrants into the market. Consumers are taking more and more control into their own hands and how they interact with brands is determined on their terms.

“This generation of marketing and advertising leaders is the first generation that is not being handed the playbook from its predecessors. We're living through the technology equivalent of the industrial revolution... we're making it up as we go, we're making it up together and looking at how we can do things better and learning from each other. We have to do this together. Great marketing only happens when that partnership exists between client and agency – and we all know those moments of magic when they happen.”

The Works' founding partner Damain Pincus also touched on the importance of long-standing relationships between clients and agencies in accepting the Grand Effie for its 'Over beer' work with Beam Suntory's Canadian Club brand, which has been running for five years.

“The longevity of relationships is harder to come by these days. To win an Effie takes an enormous amount of effort, it's almost like winning a pitch these days. The team has put in five years of hard work and worked tirelessly for the client. It's a great privilege to win.”

He also admitted that for the first two years of the relationship working on Canadian Club the agency “totally f*cked it up”. But the longevity of the relationship has won out.

It’s been a good week for The Works and Beam, with the drinks company winning 14 awards at the Australian Drinks Awards earlier this week - the most awards one by a single brand in any given year, and including tent pole accolades Brand of the Year and Most Loved Brand for Jim Beam.

What do you think, are clients too often turning to a pitch instead of working through problems with their agency partners?

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Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop me a line at rosiebaker@yaffa.com.au

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