A few days ago, I had a heated conversation with a friend.
The argument? Pitch fees or more simply, fees that advertising or creative agencies desire that clients pay as compensation for time spent developing creative concepts in a bid to acquire a project or account.
That debate filled me with curiosity: why are pitch fees such a contentious topic? does every agency that pitches for an account deserve to be paid for their time and efforts, even when they are unsuccessful? Or do clients not get any real value from these unsuccessful pitches and there is no actual business case to justify paying pitch fees?
To get a better sense of the answers, I asked four industry leaders in marketing (split across the client’s side and the agency) about their thoughts on pitch fees:
As kids, we’re obsessed with fitting in. Our deepest fears are centred around being left out and we make behavioural, fashion and even lifestyle choices to gain the approval of our peers. This continues well into our teenage years no matter how many times we hear the words “just because your friends are doing it, does not mean you should too.”
And then as we approach adulthood, almost overnight, the script flips and the most backhanded compliment you can give an adult is implying that they’re not special.
I like to think that brands are like people. At inception brands are happy just for the chance to play in the category, fulfilling the same needs that the competition does. However, as they reach maturity, in an ideal world the best brands shed their “me-too” skins in pursuit of unique brand personas.
But a quick look across industries will show you that far too many brands are failing to grow out of “me-too” marketing. Colloquially termed ‘copycat’ marketing, the “me too” strategy is as big a problem for green horn brands as it is for even the most established brand names.
The surprise and delight strategy is burning a hole in your pocket and i’m here to tell you to stop.