Is the pitch process better in the ad industry?

James Murphy, the founding partner of creative agency Adam & Eve, tells PRWeek how the pitch process works in the world of advertising.

James Murphy, Adam & Eve
James Murphy, Adam & Eve

His agency has just been bought by Omnicom for an estimated £60m. 

How do pitches work in the ad industry?

The picture on the creative agency side is varied. It's still the case that only a minority of pitches are paid. Generally if a client is offering to pay, they will normally offer £10k. An agency could spend £50k on materials alone for a really major pitch, and that's just the cost before man hours are considered. In a hyper-competitive industry, some agencies are prepared to shoot almost a finished commercial in an attempt to sway the client.

How do you approach pitches?

Agencies talk about not getting into profit on a client for a year because of the pitching costs. So a good agency is focused on pitching for long-term accounts. Most are around three years. You have to be selective - not every client is right for your type of agency. You can end up kissing a lot of frogs. We don't take part in online auctions. Good ideas are at a premium.

What is your take on procurement?

I have an unusually positive opinion of procurement - it brings a rigour and measured approach to things. But I would image it's more difficult in the PR industry because the outputs are harder to identify. We might talk about creating three posters, press ads, online ads. In PR, the client is buying human capital, talent and personalities. You can't just look at an account director and compare one with another.

When do you walk away from a pitch?

There are usually only three or four agencies in a pitch process. If there is a much longer list, that's the first sign there is a lack of experience on the client side. Another warning sign is if clients want you to sign away all your intellectual property before the pitch. Lots of agencies have walked away from that situation recently. You protect your IP by making it clear they can only use your idea if they hire you.

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