Forrester - Ditch The Pitch and stop a 'vicious race to the bottom'

Chris Pash
By Chris Pash | 11 May 2023
Credit: Nadine Shaabana via Unsplash

Forrester has joined the ditch the pitch movement with analysis showing the money spent on the process equals the revenue from a global advertising group. 

The global marketing consultancy says agency reviews and the dysfunctional process that accompanies them cost agencies and (by proxy) their clients $US12.5 billion per year.

That amount nearly equals the revenue of the third-largest global agency holding company.

Various calls have been been made in the Australian advertising industry to get rid of pitches, seen by some as an archaic holdover from the days of Mad Men and one which has been described as a shakedown designed to suck lifeblood from agencies.

Back in 2019, Mat Baxter registered the domain name and he then urged the industry to start a dialogue via the hashtag #ditchthepitch.

Clients complain that the agency pitch team doesn’t end up being their day-to-day account team. Agencies say they give away too much without being paid.

Forrester says three quarters (76%) of US CMOs indicate their company’s overall 2023 marketing budget is higher than it was in 2022.

Forrester says that means marketers are indirectly funding pitches.

The analysts, in a report to clients, Ditch The Pitch, say the current agency selection and management process necessitates that brands and agencies make substantial investments, diverting resources to complex selection processes and lengthy procurement negotiations.

"While most tolerate this as a means of keeping the work fresh or the agency honest, it thrusts everyone involved into a costly and dysfunctional pitch cycle — one that has no correlation to mutual benefit," they write.

Despite the rigors of agency review and selection, 83% of global purchase influencers were dissatisfied in one or more areas with a vendor that they worked with, according to Forrester’s Buyers’ Journey Survey, 2022.

One global holding company CEO told Forrester: “It’s a vicious race to the bottom, and (the industry) appears to repeat some of the same mistakes.”

Forrester says no client, agency, or partner meant for this to happen but all sides bear the burden of a broken process. 

"Brands and agencies need to invest in their mutual success," the analysts write.

"They both have the opportunity to adopt Forrester’s partner lifecycle approach, designed to strategically prepare client side marketers, evaluate agency credentials, and manage a successful collaboration." 

Forrester recommends a new process:

  • Reframe pitches into paid projects to "facilitate agency selection rather than allowing gratis proof-of-concept collaborations, in which neither party has real skin in the game". Laurent Ezekiel, CMO and head of growth for WPP: “Clients and agencies getting to know one another on live projects is a smart use of time during new business because it more authentically replicates the day-to-day working relationship."
  • Recast pitch consultants as partner consultants. "Focus on preserving marketing partnerships by scoping and compensating pitch consultants to help manage the ongoing productivity of client and agency alliances rather than selection only."
  • Reform into streamlined collaboration. "Reform lengthy reviews into more streamlined collaborations that set the tone for working relationships."

Forrester says successful supplier relationship development and performance steering come from equitable, effective, and enduring agency partnerships.

Strong agency partnerships provide four benefits:

1) alignment with company culture,

2) relevant marketing solutions,

3) complementary rosters of partners, and

4) mutual value exchange over the life of the partnership. 


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