What the hell happened to pitches?

Based on a (several) true story.

“So we’d like you to pitch for our global business!” said the Multi-National, Multi-Million-Pound Advertising Client in to her mobile phone.

“That’s great news we’d be delighted to,” replied the rather over excited MD, silently fist-punching the air. ‘Wait till I tell the guys that we made the pitch list,’ he thought; ‘bring it on!’

“Just one thing” the Multi-National, Multi-Million-Pound Advertising Client added “We will want a 97 day payment term”.


Crap, thought the MD, we are a fraction of the size of this client and they want us to bank roll them for a financial quarter?

“Yes, we’re a little strapped at the moment… so if you could tide us over till the next quarter…”

“Well, I suppose..”

“Excellent!… and by the way, the successful agency won’t be responsible for production; we’re de-coupling that from the process”.

“De-coupling?” asked the MD, his fist slightly clenching. Juan Pablo, our CD, is going to de-couple me.

“And the winning bid will be in the form of an e-auction.”

‘Did she just call it an auction?’ thought the MD. ‘Is what we do now? Are we just providing nuts and bolts now? But wait, calm down… this is a big sexy client and this will transform our business. Take deep breaths.

“Sure, we can do that” the MD said. “No problem”

But the client was just getting started.

“The pitch is in a week and a half, but we also want to see creative work by next Tuesday, so that we can review it before the pitch and see if it’s worth the bother of you coming all the way over. Just send us a PDF”

“Next Tuesday?… Well I guess we could pull something together quickly”

“But of course we’ll be co-creating with you- going forward”


“Yes, our CEO is super-creative… for an accountant”

“Even better… um… is there any chance of a quick chat beforehand… to ask a few questions?”

“Absolutely! we’re all about collaboration!”

“Great!” Okay, so it wasn’t all bad he thought, consoling himself.

“There will be a session with some agreed questions compiled from all the agencies which we will answer for the benefit of everyone.”

“So everyone can get the benefit of hearing the answer to our insightful questions?”


There was a short silence before the MD spoke again.

“Well… I suppose…”

“Incidentally,” interrupted the excited Multi-National, Multi-Million-Pound Advertising Client “all the ideas and work that you send us…we will own”

“So you want us to give you the ideas for free?”

“It is a pitch!”

The MD shook his head and managed to mumble the words “that’s not really how it works…”

“Well, if we like your ideas but not you then we want to be able to give them to someone we do like.”

“No.. that really isn’t….” said the MD limply, almost defeated.

“One more thing,” said the client as she looked up and saw her flight was boarding.

“The pitch will take the form of a two-day workshop”

“What the f…?”

“You’ve seen The Apprentice?”

“Of course”

“Well, we want you to send over the team that you will be proposing to work on the account to Guadalup for a day session where we will set them tasks and they will be tested on how they perform. And make sure there’s no one senior… we want the actual people who will be working on the business!”

“Really?… If I may be so bold…”

“Be bold, be bold! We are all about the honesty!”

“Why don’t you just hire your own people and have an in-house agency?”

“interesting idea… hmm” she replied, but really she was thinking ‘Because no decent ad people would ever come and work for us!! What kind of a dumb-ass question was that?’

Not missing a beat and deftly ignoring the question, she continued.

“…then we will choose the people we like best and they will work on the business… the ones who aren’t successful will be told to go home.”

‘Great account… great account… think of the money…’ the MD kept telling himself as the vein on his forehead began to pulse uncontrollably.

“I see… and how many other agencies, if I may ask, are involved?”

“Well, we have managed to whittle it down to seven”

The MD removed his fist from the newly punched hole in his office’s partition wall.

He turned and looked out of his large glass window across the city. He was imagining the headlines ‘Agency wins large famous multi-national account’ on the front page of Campaign. He kept trying to hold on to that image but it was getting fainter and fainter.

He let out an exhausted sigh which he managed to disguise in to a cough at the last minute.


“Yes, but the good news is six have pulled out… so it’s yours to lose!”

This perked the MD up somewhat. Maybe this was salvageable.

“You mean we’re the only agency pitching?”

“Yes! And if you get past the first round, we look forward to being a really cohesive team… because we believe in partnerships”

The MD let the first round comment go.

Whatever happened to pitching and winning or losing? Now it’s like the X Factor six seat challenge and he wasn’t sure he even wanted to be invited to the judges houses any more.

“Actually,” said the MD, “having given it some thought, I am afraid we may have to decline your kind offer”

The client was shocked.

“Oh… well we’re obviously disappointed… maybe you don’t see yourself as worthy of our account”

“Yes, yes..that’s it. We’re not worthy”

“That’s fine” she said and hung up.

“Agencies…they are such primadonnas!” she said to no one in particular as she googled some more names.

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