Skip to content
I wish all pitches were run like this.
Tom DenfordJul 20, 20234 min read

"I wish all pitches were run like this."

Brands Deserve Better Media

A weekly column from @tomjdenford


My best advice to CMOs for pitching media and creative agencies in 2023



That quote in the title is real. It was spoken by a leader from an agency that participated in one of our pitches. What makes this quote so impactful is that it came from an agency that ultimately lost the pitch. Despite their loss, they still acknowledged it as the best pitch they had ever experienced. Hard to believe, right? If you're curious you can hear it for yourself in a webinar discussing the recent Burger King creative and media pitches.


All pitches are terrible?

There has been a lot of pushback on pitches recently. Hold on, I should clarify that: There has RIGHTLY been a lot of pushback against BAD pitches recently. Fully agree with that.


This week a new report was jointly published by the leading trade associations in the US representing both the advertisers (ANA) and their agencies (4As) called The Cost of The Pitch. 


What made headlines was the staggering average cost of pitches, reaching $1,000,000. While there is always uncertainty in averages (ask the family of the man drowning in a three-inch-deep pool on average), it is undeniable that the combined investment of time and resources in a large pitch project can be significant.


Pitches cost $1,000,000?

Whether an agency spends $10k, $100k, or $1m on a pitch, the key question is whether it was a fair investment. Agencies carefully evaluate their investments in new business, and if the process was flawed, lacked transparency, or felt unfair, CEOs may feel that they wasted their money.


On the other hand, if the pitch process is driven by a clear objective, conducted with transparency and integrity, and focused on creating value rather than cutting costs, agencies will have more confidence in investing their time and resources.


We have spent more than 10,000 hours with marketers discussing exactly these things. I can tell you that today agencies are FAR more discerning about pitches than they have ever been. They are not afraid to say no, to question the brief or to demand fairness. Yes, the agency CEO is spending money on pitches but they are participating in fewer pitches, with more certainty and clarity than ever.


Let’s call the whole thing off?

The main concern for the CMO during a pitch is whether agencies will truly WANT to compete for their business. In today's market, where agencies are more selective than ever, and considering the ongoing talent challenges they face, the CMO must have confidence that the agency not only wants to win the pitch but also considers it a top priority, dedicating their best team and resources to the project. No CMO can take that for granted.


Four hot pitch topics to focus the concerned CMO

If you're planning to pitch your media or creative agency in the back half of 2023, we have four essential requests that will help ensure your pitch brief creates the desired response from the top agencies. These are currently the hot topics we're discussing with ambitious CMOs regarding their pitch briefs. As always, if you need help crafting yours, don't hesitate to reach out.




As many advertisers struggle to integrate brand and performance teams internally due to legacy siloed structures, they are asking their agency partners to compensate for this potential internal dysfunction. CMOs are asking agencies to provide a single, integrated strategic and operational solution that is grounded in consumer centric insight and is driven by an ambition to deliver consistency in consumer experience. Agencies can lead the way here.



Provide a surgical understanding on who my existing and future consumer is. Help me make sense of my first party data (or use your data sources) to provide me with workable customer profiles. I may not want to use it for ‘hyper-targeting’ options, but I need more from my consumer understanding than basic demographics.



My media budgets are finite, my options are infinite. Use my improved consumer understanding to help me identify sources of future growth for my brand. Let's make better informed decisions on where I need to make my media investment bets, that will likely have the greatest impact on my growth agenda and what messages will have the greatest impact with new audiences.



As CMO I want confidence that I will be able to maintain the consistency of talent, process and culture behind my brands. I want to know that we will create something special and that it will have momentum. This cannot be just a great pitch moment, it also must forge a productive long-term relationship that is built on trust and value.



Tell me more…

For more tips and some free pitch planning resources, check out our Running an Agency Pitch page.


As I said in my last column, "brands deserve better pitches" and CMOs must be decisive to demand a good pitch, with a collaborative team, designed to deliver the long-term needs of their brand.


At ID Comms we are committed to always improving the pitch experience for advertiser and agency, we give and welcome feedback, we listen and we iterate.


Brands do deserve better pitches. When pitches are managed with care they lead to stronger, more productive agency relationships. When brands get the agencies they deserve they flourish


When brands grow, we all win!




This post was featured in ID Comms’ weekly column, Brands Deserve Better Media. Each week, CEO Tom Denford shares insights on media and advertising and inspires us to work together to build a better future for the industry.

Sign up here to receive the weekly column and to stay in the loop with other industry and ID Comms happenings. 



ID Comms Insights: Burger King Creative