Pitch Positive Pledge: More harm than good

Much has been written about recent attempts to improve the agency pitch process as a joint effort between the ISBA and IPA.

Much of what has been said about it so far, at least in public, has been reasonably positive.

On the client side, we’ve been told this is a “general expectation framework for what a good pitch should look like” (Pete Marky, Boots) and a “great initiative to codify best practices” (Toby Horry, TUI).

On the agency side, it seems to be “a great opportunity to set new standards” (Charlie Martyn, Wunderman) and “a call for change” (Julian Douglas, IPA and VCCP).

But it was also briefly dismissed as “a band-aid to the process this industry long had to throw away” (Julie Cohen, indie agency Across the Pond).

I fully support any attempt to improve the pitch process, especially the process that creative agencies go through as commendable. A lot has happened in the past few years, and this initiative has been motivated, at least in part, by a mutual desire to reduce mental health pressures in institutions.

But I have to agree with Cohen that what the pitch process really needs is a full overhaul and rethinking. Unfortunately, this recent effort falls far short of that goal. Despite undoubtedly bringing together key clients and institutional representatives in lengthy discussions and ultimately consensus.

If an agency is no longer expected to provide its services free of charge during the pitch (and in most cases will continue to do so), the process will improve. meaningfully. This marks the end of the anachronistic and outdated creative pitch, as well as the end of the strategic pitch across the agency landscape. As with any other professional services business, there’s no reason in our industry pitching shouldn’t be about the team, the way they work, or what they’ve done for other clients.

And if you really want to reduce the pressure on the mental well-being of your agency staff, the clutter of creative presentations should be at the top of your to-do list. Only someone who has worked in a creative agency will fully understand this.

Pitch Positive Pledge aims to be somewhat lower. Indeed, and if you haven’t read it, the three main tenets are ‘positively that pitch is really necessary; Execute a positive pitch considering well-being. Offer a positive solution’

Anti-features like mine are not needed to make sure the sound is a bit thin. Like me, you probably think there’s more meat in the details. But if you read the pledge carefully, you’ll find that there are certainly more words. In fact, the pledge is a triumph of style over content. By reasserting the same clichés in more detail, they are written in the hope that they will somehow gain more meaning and value.

I am grateful to the hours of painful discussion between the ISBA, the IPA, and some of their two members, and that this may have veered off the edge of a potentially nobler ambition (Douglas admits much in his book. work out interview).

But if these negotiations had made things banal, wouldn’t it have been better to abandon the entire initiative entirely?

I think everyone involved has agreed that the final pledge is progress, improvement, and better than nothing. I’m not quite so sure.

In fact, I have infinite respect for those who have worked hard to solve a long-standing problem, but I fear that this promise will actually do more harm than good.


Partly because an unresolved issue has been put back in the box for a while.

But mainly because it has made it more legit and extended its lifespan through pledges signed by 70 clients (why not? They need almost nothing) and many agencies (which don’t dare). A fundamentally flawed process. It is a process that undermines the agency model, always harms clients, and places unnecessary pressure on mental health in the workplace.

Paul Hammersley is a managing partner of the Harbor Collective.

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