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.