Could agency pitching move online?

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The gloves are off
The gloves are off

Could agency pitching move online?

As interactions become increasingly digital, will the agency world ever see online pitching replace the in-person, face-to-face conference room pitch meeting? Our experts debate.

Joy Schwartz
Executive director and head of DM, Euro RSCG Chicago
Fifteen years of experience

one word sums up why online pitching by ad agencies will never replace in-person pitching: chemistry. Would you delve into a relationship with someone you had never met? Or hire an employee after glancing at a resume? Not likely.

These fundamentals also apply to new business pitches. Realistically, if the relationship is founded online and the potential client's knowledge of an agency is limited to the best case study or the latest headlines, what do they know at all, really?

Today, there are plenty of first-rate ad agencies vying for new accounts. On screen, they don't look all that differ­ent. All probably have a decent amount of experience in any given category.

Most will have a decent case study or two to back it up. But who knows that the agency's creative director has three kids? Or that the account lead is an avid rock climber?

Does that really matter? Yes, it does.

A pitch's chemistry is important for both client and agency. By looking at an agency based on credentials alone, a human bond is impossible to develop.

After the account has been won, the time comes to tackle business challenges. Taking time in advance to ensure that the agency and the client mix well on a human level is para­mount. Being able to interact with each other as individuals will most always result in a more successful relationship.

Pier Bancale
CEO of BootB
Twenty years of experience at companies including Johnson & Johnson and L'Oreal

Yes, online pitching will dominate, because the whole world is going online. The Web is an effective and cost-efficient medium that allows mar­keters and their customers to engage in a rich dialog, with deep insights that will actively shape purchase decisions.

Some argue that the answer is no, because there will always be those who cannot make purchasing decisions without having a personal contact and who don't care about having access to the whole world. However, the number of those who prefer living in a limited environment becomes smaller every day.

Offline pitching requires meetings and sometimes trips. Online, it is pos­sible to pitch from the desk. Offline pitching is restricted to a few creative teams, usually from the same country and with the same background.

Pitching online allows anyone to participate. Ideas may be produced by agencies, freelancers or amateurs; even professionals working in agencies can join the discussion.

The model must change, because if Ms. X shows the idea she wants to sell, Mr. Y can copy it. There are many potential sellers, but only one buyer. I call this crowd sourcing. Crowd sourcing represents the perfect pitching process where somebody says what is needed, everybody has the chance to go for it and the best among them really sells it.

The world has changed, indeed.

Bancale presents a world with an endless pool of resources, but Schwartz's argument recalls the way most business still takes place: face-to-face. Digital relationships often only reflect what is happening offline. Just as consumers may reach for familiar or recommended brands, client marketers also often go for what is already familiar and trusted.

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