Byravee Iyer
Sep 15, 2016

Agency heads speak out on pitches, publishers and consultants

Leaders from Carat, PHD, Publicis Media, GroupM and Ogilvy discuss the pitch process and competitive threats to the agency business.

From L-R: Ken Mandel, David Mayo, Susana Tsui, Sean O'Brien and Josh Black
From L-R: Ken Mandel, David Mayo, Susana Tsui, Sean O'Brien and Josh Black

SINGAPORE - Creative and media agencies at the All That Matters conference appeared united on the issues surrounding the pitch process, with most agreeing that ideas presented in pitches rarely represent reality.

“The pitch process needs to be retooled,” said Ken Mandel, president of innovation and commerce, Asia Pacific, at Publicis Media. “What we present at a pitch very rarely gets executed.”

According to Sean O’Brien, CEO of Carat Asia Pacific, the pitching process will never go away, but there are ways to improve it. “It could be that clients don’t give you a brief and actually spend time with the agency and seek out certain capabilities.”

PHD’s APAC CEO Susana Tsui said the relationship between agencies and clients has changed “slightly”. PHD has been more selective about the businesses it competes for. “Bigger agencies find that pitching is a necessity," she added. "But if you’re nimble you can choose.”

Panelists were more divided when asked about their relationships with Facebook and Google, both of which are encroaching on agency territory. 

“I think a lot of people think that’s a problem. We work closely with both companies and we are moving in the same direction. On a regular basis we have joint business plan and of course in some ways they are competitors," O'Brien said.

Pointing to WPP’s well-documented relationship with Google and Facebook, Josh Black, CEO of GroupM Content, noted that both tech giants are platforms that don’t create original content: “Content is what people want, but if all the money goes to Facebook and Google, then who pays for the content.? There’s an issue coming here.”

In Black’s view, consulting companies are a significant threat to traditional agencies because of their proximity to C-level executives. “I think they’re absolutely competitors because they have deeper relationships with top management.”

Mandel, however said, interest from management consultancies is nothing new. “In 2001, Accenture invested in AKQA and it didn’t go anywhere," he said. "It is a very different world but there’s a reason we do what we do. Can these two different worlds come together? Maybe, but when they get down to our level they may not like it.”

According to David Mayo, CMO of Ogilvy & Mather, management consultancies deliver on business strategy, but execution is a different game. “Agencies will find it easier to move in to the strategy space but it will be difficult for consultancies to put a creative department together.”

“It’s a dirty gritty business at the base level," Black said. "I’m not sure they’re up for that.” 

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