Inside PHD's practical approach to pitching

Josh McDonnell
By Josh McDonnell | 12 August 2019

This year has seen the cycle of media pitches reach rapid speeds, as clients look for cheaper alternatives, procurement continues to evolve and consultancies muscle in on the action.

However, there has been serious conversation raised about the future of pitching and whether there is a heightened responsibility for agencies and clients to work closer together instead of worrying about "the race to the bottom".

PHD Australia, led by managing director Mark Jarrett has proven over the last three years that a relationship orientated approach to pitching can lead to continued success.

This year the agency has picked major clients including Virgin Australia and the AFL, adding to a list of major clients such as H&R BlockCarlton United Breweries, 7/11, Volkswagen and Singapore airlines.

While Jarrett says the cycle of pitching will most likely remain unchanged, he believes PHD's success has been through entering into pitches with clients looking to establish "fair and responsible partnerships".

PHD recently drew praise from the industry and Initiative global CEO Mat Baxter after it was revealed it was taking a stand against "unrealistic" pitch expectation.

Jarrett says the obvious conversation points around pitching, such as the rise of procurement, media as a commodity and the race to the bottom are valid but not reflective of the broader client behaviour.

"Many clients have always acted in a reasonably responsible way in terms of I need to pay some sort of a fair fee to get a good service with good, intelligent people spending their time on my business," Jarrett says.

"They have to get paid somehow and so if they're getting paid through the fee, then that would be quite sensible. If you look at the fees part of it, it's quite a small part of the overall investment, so you must invest the 95% or 99% of the money well, not to save yourself an extra quarter percent on the other end."

Jarrett says there have been some changes from both client and agency approaches to pitching. He says clients in the market have "come back around" to viewing deals with a more constructive outlook.

He adds that agencies have also taken to picking and choosing which pitches they deem will allow them to work to the best of their abilities, without falling short of client expectation.

"Some difficult experiences over the past four or five years for clients have seen them realise that if it doesn't appear to be sustainable to deliver, then it probably isn't sustainable and employing a business in an unsustainable way as a supplier or partner doesn't make sense. It's not going to deliver value," Jarrett says.

"There are several clients in the market that have come back around to viewing it in a way that they need to construct their deals in a manner that means the agency is genuinely there to do the best they can for the client because the client is paying them fairly to do that."

This part two of a two-part interview with PHD's Mark Jarrett. For part one, head here.

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