To pitch or not to pitch
The whole adage remains true; never judge a book by its cover.
To pitch or not to pitch
5 min read
Words by Jen Barry
Pitching in the creative industry is nothing new. In the prosperous postwar era, and with the introduction of the television in the 1950s, the need from brands to capture the attention of millions of consumers drove the advertising boom.
With a new demand from businesses and fierce competition, agencies came clambering with boards, sketches, slogans, and dreams to sell their big ideas.
This approach of selling an idea is more understandable for advertising and campaign based pitches, the purpose being to convince the client that an idea has enough value in it to bring it to life.
However, in recent years, and even more so in the past 8 months, the media landscape has changed and a brand’s success is no longer so heavily hinged on one great campaign or TV spot, especially with the downfall in out-of-home advertising due to Covid-19, and paid for streaming services that do away with traditional advertising.
Now, it’s about identifying and answering to consumers’ needs, and creating a brand that aligns with their lifestyles and values. This is what we define as brand building, where we help brands beyond aesthetics and how they look, but also how they behave and express their unique propositions, even helping with internal company culture and the talent they need to help the brand grow and succeed.
And this is where we feel the traditional pitching in the “Don Draper” sense falls short. Whilst it can be good, as a quick way for knowledgeable clients (with the right perspective) to see how we think, work, or approach a business problem with a creative solution, it can also sell an agency short if a client sees only the ‘idea’ in the pitch as the ‘product’ that they will buy.
When we work with brands, the key product isn’t the designs, it’s our unique people, experience and approach. In Hong Kong, there seems to be a focus on the end result rather than the process of problem solving, which can mean that pitches are judged on visuals or “ideas” alone, as though choosing one would make or break their businesses with little context or strategy behind them.
It is relatively easy for us to make something look "good" from a general visual perspective, the challenging part is to work closely with business owners to really look into their pain points, then bring in a fresh approach to their problems by marrying business goals and aesthetics.
Good and thorough design work should be well researched; design exists to solve problems, and in order to solve problems you need to think beyond the cosmetics. From who are the end users and what are their needs, to what is the broader context for the brand aesthetics in business and the industry.
Design can always be revised, tweaked, amended, improved, or thrown in the bin and started from scratch. Process, thinking, approach, experience and passion, are harder to craft and impossible to do rounds of revision.
So whilst we understand the need to respond to briefs and pitch requests with creative to get a foot in the door, a conversation going, and show ability, clients need to understand that pitch creative should be just that. The design and creative showcase presented shouldn’t be seen as a “final product”. Clients need to see the bigger picture and opportunity, especially in times like now where it is crucial to have the best possible agency and team in place to maximise a brand’s creative network and effectiveness, not just a team that can put together some good looking mock-ups.