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Should corporates give agencies financial reward when pitching for contracts?

EventPlannersTalk panellists agree that the idea of agencies charging for pitches is a non-starter

Pictured: last night's #EventPlannersTalk at Broadway House focused on the perfect pitch

Corporate clients offering "financial gestures" for pitches may become more commonplace in the industry, as event professionals argue that agencies deserve some form of recognition.

Payments from clients to cover expenses such as travel or creative spend are significant, argues industry consultant Gareth Dimelow, who adds he could see the practice increasing. However Dimelow said the idea of agencies charging for pitches outright was a "non starter".

Speaking at this week's #EventPlannersTalk at Broadway House, Dimelow said: "(A financial gesture) shows a willingness or a good intention from the client at the time when agencies are putting in to pitch. It could cover creative time or travelling back and forth.

"A lot of agencies deliver a significant period of work. Sometimes that money is a gesture that gets over some of the initial financial hurdles; though ultimately it's at the onus of the agency that wants the work to pay for that opportunity. It's the onus of the client to not be silly and go after 15 clients in the process."

Dimelow was speaking at the industry debate, entitled The Perfect Pitch- What Clients are Looking For, alongside other panellists Mike Walker, MD of MGN Events, and Deborah Kelly, business development manager at London & Partners.

Dimelow said recognition from clients also helped boost agency staff morale.

He added: "One thing that never gets considered is the importance of morale and enthusiasm within the team. If you're constantly going for pitch, whether you're winning or not, if it feels like your contribution is being taken for granted by the client, then what you then end up with is people saying 'I don't really want to work for this person'.

"But if you see a client who really cares and wants to show respect it instantly wants to make people work harder."

Dimelow differentiated between financial recognition and agencies who charge clients to pitch.

Mike Walker, MD of MGN Events said: "I don't believe agencies will ever be able to charge to pitch. There will always be agencies who will be willing to put in that initial work and try to start new working relationships, so it’s a non-starter for me.

"In my opinion we should be looking at the way agencies approach pitches. Rather than agreeing to generate fantastic ideas and concepts 'for free',  I'd like to see agencies take the stance of "why you should choose us" while providing a relevant showcase of their recent portfolio. It’s important to hit the nail on the head and demonstrate how much we can benefit the client. It's actually saying to them: 'this is what we're good at and here are our case studies'. You wouldn't have been invited to pitch if the client didn't think you were capable. 

"Rushing a creative process is not only costly for the agency, it actually can be counter intuitive as you are often making assumptions about a client you haven't got to really know yet - something that takes time. It is much better for both parties to do this collaboratively later on in the process, after the contract has been awarded."

Kelly added: "The UK has some of the most creative event agencies in the world and we're renowned for that, and that's something we need to be championing, and that's what London & Partners does."

  • Stephen Morton-Prior of Clearwater Events 27/07/2016

    While I understand why agencies can not charge for their pitch, clients do need to understand the costs involved in the pitching process. It's not about putting the 'onus' totally on the agency and expecting the agency to pay in time, effort and creativity in an attempt to want and win the business. There seems to be an assumption that its "OK" for an agency to spend a week's worth of work on a proposal with a possible risk of no return on that investment. Of course, you need to be in it to win it but there is something fundamentally wrong here.

    We all want the business! But, agencies large and small can ill afford to inject significant costs into a pitch that has possibly gone out to 10 companies - perhaps even more. Sending the same brief to multiple agencies just isn't good business practise for anyone. It's not great for the agencies, suppliers and ultimately the client - especially with specific briefs where only limited suppliers can be contacted. We all end up speaking to the same people, all chasing our tails......

    Although there is a cost to winning any form of business, I do feel as an industry, there needs to be more respect and understanding to the actual costs and time involved, with an acceptance that their needs to be some form of financial support. This could be as simple as offering to pay for the petrol to the client pitch, but it shows the commitment the client actually has to the agency right away.

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