Inside the Pitch - Genuine Parts Company says ‘You’re the best’

Chris Pash
By Chris Pash | 1 September 2020

Genuine Parts Company (GPC) Asia Pacific has been preparing for some time for Father’s Day, a big sales event in the calendar of Australasia’s largest automotive aftermarket parts and accessories provider.

And that includes finding and appointing a new media agency to represent brands such as Repco, the auto parts name said to be loved by males.

One of the first things Diana Di Cecco, GPC Asia Pacific’s general manager marketing AUNZ, did when she arrived at the company was to review contracts, and the media one was years old.

“I decided that we would need a new media partner and not just a transactional one,” she told AdNews.

“We wanted to align with an organisation with similar values to us. When it comes to the media space, I want to work with a bunch of really smart, awesome people. I want them to be professional and I want the smarts.

“At the end of the day, for me, an agency is really an extension of the team. That's what we were looking for.”

The initial face-to-face engagement was a chemistry session.Diana Di Cecco

Sarah James, managing director at Initiative Melbourne, uses this as a way to understand more about the brand, the client and the category.

“It was a great session and I walked away thinking it felt like there was a good connection with Diana and the team,” she says.

“When that happens, you do get quite a bit of a buzz. When you feel like there is that connection, it does certainly go a long way.”

Diana Di Cecco at GPC Asia Pacific: “It was like a first date.”

But she knows everyone puts their best foot forward, so she takes a critical view.

In this case, there was something special about Initiative’s session. “We all walked out of there thinking that was really cool and it felt genuine,” she says. “Something different.”

Sarah James at Initiative, at that first session, looked to get an understanding of what the client wanted and was looking for in an agency partner.

“And also to make sure that we aligned from a values perspective so that we can actually be that agency,” she says.

“The second part of it is around the response to brief, coming up with an idea that is going to be implementational.”

Sarah saw that the client wanted a fresh start, an agency to care about them and know everything they're putting in the market.

“From the idea perspective, as part of the RFP, that's what we love because we get to show our thinking, what we think is the best thing for the brief,” she says.

“That's the fun. It's what we live for in the agency -- to go and do some thought provoking, brave work and bring to the front an idea, an impactful idea.”Sarah James

From a brand perspective, ideas flow from different directions. Discipline is needed to sort that information.

Diana at GPC Asia Pacific is mindful of how much effort agencies put into the tender process. “I know it's just not a five minute job.”

The pitch started with eight agencies, quickly went to five and then down to three.

“Getting three was hard,” she says. “They were all of a very high calibre.”

Diana uses a confidential matrix, scoring by category as the process moves along. Initiative won pre and post matrix scoring. On the brand side, it’s also important to have everyone involved, to understand the winning agency.

Diana: “It's a very intricate way of being able to score and understand each agency based on a number of criteria.

“My biggest one is: Did they respond to the brief. Agencies can sometimes put on a great show and that's wonderful, but unless they respond to the brief, then unfortunately that's a big fail.

“We look at things like company size, the ability for them to back up their assumptions, their philosophy and just general approach.

“And then we are looking for that X factor.

“It's quite intense but it really helps you weigh up the assessment fairly.”

On the agency side, how the matrix is scored is unknown.

But the brief has clues.

Sarah at Initiative: “We have the brief which talks to the importance of each section. And so therefore from the agency side, we then will weigh up the level of importance to reflect that. We know that, for example, the strategic response was very important.”

And agencies can send in questions, the responses to which are shared among all the pitching agencies.

There comes a point when all threads gathered from sessions come together.

Sarah: “When you're coming up with the strategic idea, and all the parts come together and it works in a framework.”

There’s a buzz to it. At that point you think: This is cool.

“It's not retrofitted,” says Sarah. “It feels really in line with the briefing. We have to keep asking: What’s the ask and is this solution delivering it or not? At the end of the day, if it's not answering the brief, it's not going to deliver the business results.”

The pitch hit the Christmas period, the busiest sale time of the year.

gpc 2

Diana at GPC Asia Pacific: “We decided to wait until January.”

She then personally went to see each of the three agencies to deliver the news. She believes those not successful deserve feedback.

“I headed off on a certain day and Ubered my way round to avoid having to park anywhere.”

The first stop was Initiative.

“I had been looking for a sing-a-gram to help me deliver the news but I hadn’t been able to lock one in.”

That morning, while riding an exercise bike at 5 o'clock, Diana remembered that one of her team members, Priscilla, was a singer.

She thought: if I can get her to be with me by 9.30 in the city, that would be perfect.

“I did wait until an appropriate time to call, 6.30 to 6.45,” she says. “I floated the idea, told her the song and I said: ‘We're going to pretend, role play.’ I asked her to bring her glasses and pose as someone from procurement.”

At Initiative, Diana, declined an offered coffee. “It looked like I was really just there to talk business and be brief.”

She thanked them for their participation. However, she told them they had missed out on the opportunity.

“That was a joke just for 10 seconds," she says.

“I then handed over to Priscilla to talk through some of the ins and outs of the procurement process and perhaps to give some feedback.”

Pricilla then sang You're the Best, the theme from Karate Kid, the first movie.

You're the best!
Nothing's gonna ever keep you down

“She does gigs with a band on the weekends,” says Diana. “She's amazing.”

During COVID-19, Diana says the business has actually ramped up activity.

“It's showing through in the numbers, so it’s definitely a good move.”

Sarah at Initiative: “This is where the rubber hits the road for us. It's taking on the business. The team has done an amazing job at getting everything live with really short turnaround times.

“It's been awesome to watch the agility of the team and just having to move really fast to get a variety of campaigns turned around quickly from Diana's team.”

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