When you’re at that BBQ and we start chatting about the ridiculous cost of private school fees not to mention Mitsy’s Jazz Ballet classes it inevitably comes around to that thorny topic that gives everyone gastric reflux. How do we increase our success rate when chasing new leads that could ultimately become new business? Every industry is different, so I can only comment on the nuances and idiosyncrasies of the tendering process in the advertising industry.
The best way to attract new business is just after shooting a successful high profile campaign. This gives you an ‘in’ because it’s fresh in many people’s minds.
But I digress, let’s go back to the BBQ. One question they all want to ask is for such a high profile brand who did we know in the organization to get such a big job in the first place?
The answer is simply we didn’t know anyone. Many big brands quite simply abrogate their responsibilities and get their advertising agency who they think is in a better position to take over the tender process for them when finding a production company to shoot their next campaign.
The agency loves telling the client that they have invited 4 of the top Production Companies to pitch on their business. Nothing like some evidence of industry. Each of the companies come in to be briefed and the times are staggered a bit like a psychiatrists office so no one knows who else is involved with the pitch.
Each company then goes away and produces a treatment that is advertising speak for creating a tender document. Notice how the word treatment has medical connotations to it. The health of your brand depends on our treatment of your brilliant idea that is the blueprint to winning a pitch. Always flatter the client for their bold choice of creative. Even though when it comes time to actually implement the campaign as was written they get cold feet and settle for that feel good campaign, you know the one with the gorgeous border collie pup takes the toilet paper in its mouth runs in slow motion while the owner sits helplessly on the toilet. Meanwhile the puppy entangles itself in that soft and luxurious toilet paper. I mean this TVC would make me want to cry and defecate at the same time.
With 4 production companies going hammer and tongs to win a job that is almost always under budgeted it still feels like feeding time at the zoo. The post rationalization is that we’ll put a little money into the production because ultimately it will look good on the reel.
But the really annoying thing is that the agency and client have been sitting on this brief for nearly 6 months and we get 2 days to come out with a brilliant document which without any legitimate proof each director will use every superlative known to mankind to convince you that their way is the right way.
The tendering process in the advertising industry sits somewhere between hosting a murder and a game of football. Everyone knows the rules yet along the way there are some baffling decisions by the umpire.
It’s only when the executive producer assures each production company they are all playing on a level playing field that sets off a wave of panic among the protagonists who then proceeds to bombard the executive producer with inane questions about the soundtrack and the final mix. Desperate to win brownie points our producer blurts out we can save money by using this Russian street casting agent who has worked out a way to charge featured extras the same rate as ordinary extras and have as many babies on set without having to have a nurse on set.
By the last day of pitching everyone is convinced that they’re the favorites to win the job. Everything is a sign from the way tea leaves appears to form a dollar sign at the bottom of the tea cup to some subtle hints from the agency producer about celebratory drinks at Le Cirque.
Judgement day. The phone rings. Everyone just stares at it before the production assistant answers the call and hands the phone, which is now on loudspeaker. They drop the bombshell we didn’t get the job. We’re our now numb and listen politely as they reel off the reasons why we didn’t get the gig. The executive producer said that 3 of the 4 treatments were bang on brief, and anyone of them would have created visually stunning campaign. We then ask who got the job and to rub salt into the wounds we’d have to find out like everyone else on lead story of the many industry websites tomorrow morning.
But suffice to say the winning team’s approach was so wildly different it was barely on brief. That’s because they awarded it to an inexperienced producer/director team straight out of film school. The agency claims that they were so inappropriate it would generate so much outrage in and out of the industry that it will become a free publicity machine that will generate headlines and editorial for months to come (at no cost to the client) eventually out spending the campaigns actual media budget which could be in the millions
Can you share with us any pitches from the past where you were the front-runners yet still managed to lose the un-losable pitch?