by Glen PeakI have noted that the new TV show called “The Pitch” has received praises from many. Frankly, I truly wonder if any of those singing the praises of the show have ever had any experience working IN an advertising agency…and not just in the “business of advertising”...which could mean a lot things.

etc_stack22__01__630x420 Why do I wonder? Because I see the concept of “The Pitch” as a bad disease…one that is “harmful to the health” of agencies and clients alike.

For a client, the concept of talented agencies making speculative presentations to compete for a piece of business, on the surface, may appear to be swell idea. The client gets “free ideas from multiple sources”...thereby making the choice of a “winner” somewhat easier. We hear it all the time and it goes something like: ”we’re inviting (x number) agencies to have them present their ideas and we have chosen your agency as one of those we would like to participate.”

So why is this potentially harmful? Since I have a blend of client and agency experience in my checkered career, let’s consider what one might get “for free…”

• IF the client doesn’t provide a good creative strategy (with clear-cut main idea, support, etc.)...This leaves the agency combatants to “divine” their own strategy...and in such a short period of time that gaining anything beyond surface understandings of the target audience is unlikely. So the combatants spend a ton of hours working to their own strategies. So now the client has work based on multiple strategies…and the strategies themselves may be problematic since there was likely insufficient time to identify and collaborate with client on a creative strategy that could make a difference.

• So, let’s say the client does provide a strategy. Is it the right one? The client will likely never get any dissenting opinion from the agency…because it’s all about winning the pitch. To deviate from the prescribed strategy…even if the agency develops a strong belief in another way…would create great risks for the agency in winning the contest.

• Study after study has demonstrated that among the top reasons that clients leave agencies is the often-heard phrase: “…they didn’t really understand my business...” Certainly, the time given for spec pitches is not going to result in the proper understandings.

I’m surprised that clients inclined to use speculative pitches for agency selection don’t use the same method for hiring marketing people. Why not ask potential marketing people to create a spec marketing strategy? Maybe even a plan!! Winner takes all!! Absurd. Yes. But how much more absurd than the spec agency pitch routine.

Speculative work is still best characterized as “the work you throw out once the pitches are over…so then real work can begins.” Television that glorifies this diseased process simply helps create more bad work.