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Running a
Media Agency Pitch

Running a Media Agency Pitch

Running a Media Agency Pitch

Media is one of the largest investments in growth your company can make. The opportunity to get it right is compelling and working with the RIGHT media agency can have a huge impact on your marketing success.

A good pitch process will give your team clarity on what you need from a media agency and confidence to select the best fit agencies for your brand. It will provide clear communication to your various stakeholders. It will be objective, fair and executed with a clear process for decision making.

But how do you find the right agency for your requirements? And how do you compare agencies and identify the one with the right capabilities, culture and at the right commercial terms?

That’s where a trusted pitch consultant team can help! ID Comms is an award winning consultancy, with over 10 years experience working with the world’s leading advertisers and helping them find and build productive relationships with the very best agencies.

What you will find below is a collection of our proven best practices in pitch preparation and management. These processes have helped some of the world's leading advertisers find the best agency partners and, ultimately, see lasting growth from their media investment. 

Reasons to call a media agency pitch:

We have found there are 7 reasons to launch a media agency pitch:

  • Legal - for example a breach of contract

  • Competitive conflict - agency starts working with a competitor

  • Performance Issues - sustained under performance

  • Change of share - agency buying power impacted

  • Consolidation - advertiser wants to work with fewer agencies

  • Agency M&A - agency buys or is bought by another agency

  • Change of strategy - material change in scope


Over the years we have heard many other reasons to launch a pitch; “we want to save money and get better rates”, “we just want to see what other agencies are doing”, “we don't like the team at our existing agency”, “our business is underperforming and a new agency will give us a fresh start”. All of these might appear like legitimate concerns, and they certainly could be addressed by a media agency pitch, but they should not be the sole reason for the pitch.

It will be important for your team to be able to explain the reason for the pitch. Agencies will ask, so we recommend identifying which of the seven reasons above most closely reflects your situation. A good pitch consultant can help you articulate the ambition and objectives for your pitch, so that it can be clearly understood by your internal stakeholders and eventually the competing agencies.

How do you prepare for a media agency pitch?

There are 6 simple steps to be well prepared for a pitch:

  1. Identify the core pitch team, including marketing and procurement
  2. Hire an experienced pitch consultant with strong credentials
  3. Clarify the reasons, ambition and objectives for the pitch
  4. Identify two Executive Sponsors for the project
  5. Understand the agency landscape and dynamics
  6. Work through a checklist of preparation materials


Download our best practice guide to planning a strategic media agency pitch that engineers a productive, value-creating relationship with the right agency for your business.

Who should be on your core pitch team?

Establishing the team first is important and needs to be well considered. The team must reflect the need of the business and so your stakeholders for this media agency pitch project should represent your different business divisions, geographies and roles. For example, including both marketing and procurement in the core team is good practice to ensure that both the growth and cost-management ambitions of a pitch can be aligned and consistent.


Before beginning the pitch process, you need to be sure you have full stakeholder alignment, defined objectives and clear evaluation methodologies. A structured and objective approach is essential as this removes ambiguity and subjectivity, ensuring that prospective agencies are clear on what you expect of them at every stage and understand how decisions will be made.


Running a media agency pitch is a significant undertaking and can be a distracting and disruptive process for everyone involved, including the incumbent agency. The more efficient and organized your media pitch is, the less disruption there will be to your daily media and marketing operations.


Most advertisers serious about securing the most value and performance from their agency pitch will consider hiring a specialized consultant with experience of designing and managing the process and supporting efficient decision making. 


What does a pitch consultant do?

If you are hiring a pitch consultant to support your team through an agency pitch they should have extensive and credible experience relevant to your requirements. They should also be well organized with a proven pitch methodology and be able to supply you with a clear project plan and templates for all the briefing materials and data collection.


A good pitch consultant will know the best agencies to invite to the process, how to manage all the project communications and guide your decision making through the pitch stages. They will also be equipped with the specialist skills to evaluate the commercial proposals of agencies including evaluating the agency’s media buying rates, agency fees and contract terms ahead of final negotiations. This will get you the best deal with the best agency for you. 

There is a lot to consider when hiring a media agency pitch consultant. For more, read How to Select a Pitch Consultant on our blog and be sure to download our Media Consultant Evaluation.

How do you get the best agencies to compete for your pitch?

Agencies have become more discerning about whether to compete in a pitch. Here are our four tips for how to get the best agencies engaged in your next agency pitch:  

  • Engage early with agency leadership
  • Create high-quality briefing materials with clear objectives and timings
  • Using a pitch consultant shows you’re serious
  • Get your C-suite involved in the pitch

To get the best media agencies to compete for your pitch, you must appreciate that agency CEOs are now much more selective about where they go all in and which pitches they commit to. That’s because the best calling card to hiring and retaining the best talent is to win new business. And while winning a pitch is brilliant for morale, losing one is hugely negative.


You should also remember that the value that an agency brings is largely discretionary – the agency CEO will decide the level and volume of talent they will put into your business. A highly motivated agency leadership can bring huge value to your account and will also help you secure commercial value and innovation as well.


The bottom line is that you can no longer assume that your scale or brand can carry the full weight of the pitch process. Agencies may want to have your logo on their credentials but they will also consider the potential affects (good or bad) that this partnership will have on their team as a whole.


If you want the best agencies to compete for your business, you need to understand what motivates them. The rules of the game have changed and agencies have become more discerning than ever.

In this on-demand webinar, hosts Tom Denford and David Indo outline the key questions agencies ask when they get an invitation to participate in a new business process and share 3 Great Tips to ensure your next pitch sits at the top of their list.

Writing the Perfect Pitch Brief

The brief given to agencies is a critical component of an effective media agency pitch. Your brief needs to explain your business and media operation, your company growth objectives and the role the media agency will play in your future success. The quality of the writing and how the briefs are  presented will set a bar for agency responses. 

To fully engage, excite and motivate the participating agencies, it’s vital that the brief is clear and details all the relevant requirements. This includes outlining exactly what is required for an agency to win the pitch, so it is important to share the client’s objectives and evaluation criteria, and to be transparent about the stakeholders’ decision-making processes.


For more, download our checklist for writing the perfect media brief.

Evaluating Agencies During a Pitch

To evaluate media agency performance in a pitch you will need a bespoke scorecard which reflects the specific areas of agency assessment. This is where all your internal stakeholders get to score each agency on their capabilities, their culture and commercial proposal. 


A good scorecard will have 6-10 areas of evaluation and use a simple scoring methodology that everyone can follow consistently. The easier you make the scorecard to complete, the more likely that you will have all your stakeholders complete their evaluation and scoring on time and with enough consideration. 


The media pitch should stress-test participating agencies in appropriate ways. Using challenges aligned to your media ambitions will help ensure that the chosen agency will meet your business needs and the requirements of all internal stakeholders. And remember, the winning agency needs to be held accountable for the promises they make in the pitch process.


For more, check out How Do You Evaluate Agencies During a Pitch?

Agency Staffing Plans

The single greatest media agency contributor to media value creation is talent. Securing the very best talent available from within the agency, with the appropriate levels of expertise and capability, engineered in a way so that the team is singularly focused on delivering the client's business and media objectives is the best way of delivering sustainable media value creation and competitive advantage. Therefore, the consideration and evaluation of the agency staffing plans is a hugely important component of assessing the overall capabilities of a potential media agency partner.   


As is often the case in best-practice pitch design and management, greater thought, consideration and effort on the client side to develop the very best brief will have an enormous impact and influence on the response from the agencies. In this component of the pitch, the emphasis is on the depth, clarity and foresight detailed with the Scope Of Work (SoW).


The SoW is a document that needs to detail, very clearly, the specific needs and roles that you want and need the agency to perform. The more detailed the description and transparent the requirements are, the more considered, appropriate and accurate the agency response will be. It's important that considering within the SoW, not only clearly defines the immediate role the agency needs to play but also, how those requirements may need to evolve over an 18-24 month period. You should be confident that your agency staffing plan is capable of not only managing your current media needs, but also your future requirements.


The agency should asked to respond by detailing very specifically their proposed staffing plan;

  • Function/ department
  • Named resource
  • Location
  • Job title
  • Years of experience
  • Proportion of time (on an annual basis), dedicated to the clients business (%)
  • Key individual deliverables and expected output
  • Remuneration, by individual, (prorated salary, overhead contribution, profit margin) - Assuming the remuneration model is based on a fee structure 


Evaluating the staffing plans is often a combination of logic and intuition, enabled by years of experience. There are some important areas the specifically look out for:

  • Do the staffing plans clearly reflect the needs as detailed in the SoW?
  • Is there a sensible balance between leadership, management and junior resources? 
    • A staffing plan which is too heavily loaded with senior agency operators becomes expensive and can be ineffective, as there is too little resource to deliver the manage the workload
    • A staffing plan which is made up of too many junior team members may seem efficiency in cost, but runs the danger of not having the appropriate level of senior oversight and influence
  • Is the suggested team dedicating enough of their available time to effectively work on the business?
    • Anything less than 10% of an individual's time really should be questioned, especially in management roles and more junior roles

Benchmarking Agency Fees

It may seem counterintuitive, but negotiating the lowest fee with the agencies can ultimately be a media value diminishing strategy.

The very best agency and remuneration structures are fair, reasonable, equitable and accountable. If you're looking to secure the best talent with the most appropriate capabilities to maximise the value of your media investments, then you need to be prepared to pay accordingly.

That doesn't mean paying indulgently and without due consideration and assessment of the fee structure and amount being put forward by the agencies.

There are typically three areas, within a fee based remuneration structure, that we look to evaluate and benchmark against best-practice.

Salary costs:

  • Are they broadly in line with the named individuals experience and role and responsibility
  • Are they appropriate to the geographical location the named individual will be working from
  • Do they accurately represent the proportion of time that individual has been committed to working on the account


  • What key elements have been included within the OH recovery figure
  • Are they appropriate and standard to what is considered good practice
  • Are they appropriate to the geographical location of the office 
  • Are they reflective of any off-shoring provision provided with the agencies operational structure

 Profit Margin:

  • Is the PM calculation on salary figures only or does they include overhead recovery rate
  • Are they appropriate and standard to what is considered good practice
  • Do they link to performance or guaranteed
  • Is there a malice provision included for underperformance 


Finding the right balance between fair reward and payment for talent and value contribution from the agency and diligent oversight over the elements that contribute to the commercial fee is a critical measure of the success of any media pitch. 

Negotiating Media Agency Contracts

Commercial negotiations are a critical element of an agency review or contract renewal. It is an opportunity to formalize the working relationship between the partners and ensure clarity on service delivery and compensation.


The process of reaching agreement should have a clear timeline and the clients requirements and ambition need to be clear and reasonable. Communication must be regular and professional and all parties treated with respect.


The natural competitive tension in a formal review allows for agreement to be accelerated but should not be used to drive a race-to-the-bottom which serves no one in the long run. Competition is important but it is crucial to know when the best terms have been reached to allow the relationship to begin on a positive footing.


The commercial ambitions of any review or renegotiations need to be clearly stated up front and must be based on reality. A scope of work, Globally, Regionally and by Territory needs to detail every aspect of what is expected in the new partnership, including but not limited to strategy, planning, buying, research and training. This allows the agency to build resource plans and structure the compensation proposal they require. These elements are captured as schedules and LIA’s in the master services agreement.


The ANA and ISBA frameworks provide excellent templates to build your MSA as they already include comprehensive definitions, audit and transparency clauses and refer to the types of media buys commonly used, including inventory and proprietary buys as well as the treatment of any added value and bonuses due.


Payment terms should be clear as should regular financial reporting and invoice procedures including taxonomy.


Each client will need to adapt the frameworks to suit their specific business operations and requirements, particularly around ad tech and digital media placements.


After initial submissions from agencies during the review process a short list of agencies are selected to proceed to a Best and Final Offer (BAFO) process which allows the shortlisted agencies to receive a clear and detailed brief covering all commercial aspects of the potential relationship. Their written commitments are then discussed and explained in final face to face meetings to ensure that the agency has had every opportunity to make their case before the clients make a decision on who to partner.


This BAFO runs in parallel with any final strategic and service delivery discussions. Ideally the commercial terms agreed will be largely similar for all finalist agencies to allow clients to then select the best fit strategic partner, without being swayed by commercial offers.


The commercial contract is the mainstay of any new partnership. It sets the conditions for the working relationship and details what is required. It is essential to continually monitor performance and course correct or address issues quickly once the agreement has started, the frameworks for which must be clear in the contract.

Are you planning a media agency pitch?

ID Comms Partners Program is designed to help you find the right agency partner at the right commercial terms.