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#TwitterChat: Tackling the ‘pitchingenza’ epidemic in the ad world

Adgully’s latest Twitter Chat endeavour turned the focus on ‘Pitch Pains’ of the advertising industry. The Twitter Chat followed a two-part-in-depth report by Adgully analysing the pitch process in Indian advertising. Held on Friday, December 6, 2019, the special Twitter panel comprised of industry experts – Naresh Gupta, CSO and Managing Partner, Bang In The Middle; Ashok Lalla, Independent Digital Business Advisor; B Krishna Rao, Senior Category Head – Marketing, Parle Products; Anjali Malthankar, National Strategy Director, Tonic Worldwide; and Sanil Jain, Co-founder, CupShup. 

The discussions revealed several pain points that need to be addressed, most notably pitch fees, idea shopping by clients, exploitation, unscientific approach and much more. 

Naresh Gupta
Naresh Gupta

Talking about what ails the pitch process in Indian advertising, Naresh Gupta said, “It is not a process, but an endless exploitation from one side of the other.” 

On the other hand, giving a client’s perspective, B Krishna Rao pointed out, “What ails the pitch process is the lack of seriousness and clarity from the agencies’ end. They are there only to acquire the account rather than problem definition and providing an apt solution.” 

Among other pain points that emerged were, Idea Shopping, Non-transparency and an expectation-reality mismatch between the client and agency. 

Ashok Lalla
Ashok Lalla

Ashok Lalla noted, “A pitch is an opportunity to gain new business and new revenues. Especially when organic growth from existing clients slows and agencies are under pressure to grow business. But yes, everyone seems to be pitching all the time!” Giving a solution, he further mentioned, “If clients limited the number of agencies invited to a pitch to a handful, the ‘pitchingenza’ epidemic would reduce. But we often see 10/ 12/ 15 agencies invited and agreeing to pitch. That must stop.” 

While the various problems around the pitch process are well known, a solution has been elusive all these years. Giving a reason for this, Sanil Jain said, “Bigger agencies use size and scale to their advantage...They can handle the pitch pains rather comfortably compared to smaller agencies. Hence, levelling the playing field has never happened.” 

Lalla added here, “Since there is no single measure of what goes and what’s not permitted, solutions will keep blowing in the wind. The same agencies that decry pitch processes will hurry to toss their hats in the ring when a new pitch is announced.” 

Talking about the pitch fee issue and whether agencies and clients can be brought on the same page regarding this, Lalla felt that it would be extremely difficult to accomplish that, “because it’s a free market and there will always be someone willing to work at whatever price and to do whatever it takes. Fees are anyway opaque, so regulating them will be next to impossible.” 

Disagreeing with this, Naresh Gupta said, “Not really. The market has the same players across Asia, a region I have worked in extensively. They don’t pitch if the process is not followed. Why can’t they enforce it in India?” 

Anjali Malthankar
Anjali Malthankar

Meanwhile, Anjali Malthankar pointed out, “There are always newer smaller agencies who are ready to entertain and participate, so a complete boycott is not possible unless The Ad Club brings agencies and clients on the same page.” 

Talking about enforcing a change in the pitch fee structure, B Krishna Rao said, “Industry bodies need to form an association such as the IDPA...float a rate card and abide by it.” He further pointed out, “Pitch fee can work only if all agencies come together. Clients will continue to resist pitch fee so long as there are agencies willing to pitch for free.” 

Idea Shopping 

Sanil Jain
Sanil Jain

Coming out strongly against idea shopping by clients, Sanil Jain stressed, “The agencies need to put respect and value to their ideas when faced with blatant acts of idea shopping. I hope the recent case of Vivo-Oglivy becomes an eye opener and agencies call out strongly when faced with such cases of plagiarism.” 

However, this is easier said than done, as Naresh Gupta noted, “Clients do sign an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement), but then that never stopped a New York based global bank from ripping our deck.” 

B Krishna Rao
B Krishna Rao

B Krishna Rao, too, felt that when it comes to idea shopping, very little can be done. According to him, “Long term partnerships between agency and clients can address the issue to an extent.” 

Meanwhile, Ashok Lalla said, “The very raison d’etre of a pitch is to get fresh thinking and new ideas. So, all pitches are actually a means of shopping for new ideas.” At the same time, he stressed, “Not misusing the ideas that are presented is most important.” 

Wrapping up the discussions, Anjali Malthankar called for transparency in the process and penalty for shopping and stealing ideas. “Also, if all agencies refuse to implement ideas shopped by clients from other agencies...it should help,” she concluded. 

We also had numerous tweets by people apart from out panelists. Following are the most interesting ones: 

Through our #PitchPains series, Adgully aimed to shed light on the issues facing the Indian advertising industry. Through such discussions, we hope to create awareness along with bring about a change in the current norms of the industry.

 

Also Read:

#TwitterChat: What ails the pitch process in India’s ad world? Join the discussion today

Week at a glance: Spotlight on pitching; Rise of Sundar Pichai; Media trends in 2020

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