Belgian agencies recently 'went on strike' over overly time consuming pitch processes that threatened their commercial viability.
Would there be cause for that in the UK or US markets?
A few weeks ago the advertising and creative agencies of Belgium united in protest against the clients that were requesting as many as ten agencies to go through the full exhausting creative pitch process.
This solidarity, in a country famously divided by two competing languages, generated a fair degree of blog and Twitter interest and was even supported by the IPA. The speculative effort in pitching is an issue that affects many agencies, and I can empathise with the agencies concerned.
Although User Vision is a user experience agency rather than a creative agency, we do put a lot of effort into proposals and pitches, leading to elation when we win tenders and disappointment when we do not. It’s all part of the game and there is little escaping it, although carefully qualifying opportunities does help.
But the time we need to input to respond to a typical brief is fractional compared to that of creative agencies we know who must often create multiple potential creative options themselves and prepare for a pitch with the most senior and experienced team. Meanwhile, for their existing clients it must somehow remain business as usual, often by backfilling with less experienced staff.
I think the incident is an interesting development in the competitive world of digital, creative and new media agency business. In answer to my initial question – could this type of thing happen in the UK or the US – my gut feeling is no.
For starters, Belgium has a gentleman’s agreement of sorts among clients and agencies in which clients vowed to only invite three agencies and maybe the incumbent to propose for new projects. I don’t believe there is an official agreement in British or American creative clients and players. I also think the natural instinct is too strong among clients to cast the net widely as well as the agencies to respond to most briefs.
So some final musings and questions:
- Do you think such a protest in unity would be possible in the digital, creative or advertising market?
- Would the original Belgian client & agency charter be a good thing or simply impossible?
- Would anti-collusion type laws prevent that from happening, or would it be supported by industry groups such as BIMA?
- Is the competitive creative pitching process a significant draw on your resources and how do you manage it?
Many thanks to Yousef Tuqan Tuqan of the digital agency Flip Media for contributing to this post.