Mutual recrimination and the re-pitch

the verbal identity of breaking up, writ large

"Sorry" will not work here.

If you want to inspire them, a re-pitch will be the opposite.

If you want to threaten them, do it face to face. In under five minutes. With your CFO sitting there silently. And “Without coffee,” as the Army says.

None of this is hard.

A while back, a client we’d been doing verbal identity work with for 7 years asked us to re-pitch. Fair enough, we didn’t love the work we were doing anymore either. No point in fingers pointing. We left the building. With thanks for the work they’d given us and praise for their business. All heartfelt. It’s not them, it’s us.  Every time.

(Perhaps we take just a little bit too much pride in that.)

Of course, there are a hundred good reasons to ask an agency to pitch for a new account.

To see whether the agency has the right experience for your business – that isn’t one of them. You can see that on their website. And if you can’t, they haven’t.

The best reasons aren’t obvious.

You might want to see whether, instead of experience, they have the right kind of naivety to challenge the status quo.

And whether they use creativity to solve a problem, or just to promote being different.

Do they want to introduce you to their world? Or do they want to be introduced to yours?

Can they look at what you’ve been looking at for ten years and express something about your target audience or your brand positioning that you’ve never thought of? And make you wish that you had?

When you rank The Work, The Effectiveness, The Awards – do they rank them in the same order?

In a squeeze, when there was no time and no brief and no patience to explain why, how would they behave? Better or worse?

Will they be able to get up in the morning and look at exactly the same brief you’ve given them three times in a row and not blame you for being boring? And still come back with creative work which surprises you? Which challenges you? And pleases you?

Are they the kind of people who if they weren’t in their own company, you’d actually quite like to have in your company?

Most agencies are either creative or strategic. Which are they? And how do they compensate for it? By telling you that creative/strategy doesn’t matter? Or admitting that we all play to our strengths?

If you find yourself with an investor at lunch on Sunday and you suddenly need your radio commercial emailed to you then and there, will it be emailed with an apology sometime on Monday?

Does their breath smell? Are their shirts clean? Seriously, if they’re not aware of personal hygiene, what else is falling apart?

Finally, if you’re going to tell them that the work they’ve just done is terrible – how will you feel? Will it ruin the relationship? Or strengthen it?

These are just a few of the reasons to ask an agency to pitch. Get them right, and hopefully you won’t be down the road, asking your agency to re-pitch. Which is good news, because hiring should be a lot more fun than firing.


(p.s. my thanks to Funny or Die (the one in the States, the one that’s funny) for examples of break-up notes.  See more here.