Pitch Invasion

Before we start, if we start, let me make something clear: This isn't one of those ranting posts about the ethics of pitching written by a disgruntled creative person. Yes some of those ethics arguments are valid but that's maybe for another time.

This is about pro's and con's. It's about what a creative pitch can bring to a project, but also what it can miss out. So here goes: An extended piece of writing, the like of which I have probably not done since I was at college. And, for those not wanting to read my waffle, I've included some images from lost pitches over the last 10 years.

  • ILTM See The World Concept
  • DocFest Logo concept
  • 100% Design Logo Concept
  • 100% Design Exhibition Concept
  • 100% Design T-Shirt Concept
  • 100% Design ambient Media

We, like many other agencies, occasionally pitch for projects. Especially when it's something that we'd really like to work on. In fact, on the whole we've been pretty successful. If we had a prison-style tally chart on the wall, we might well find that the 'wins' side was more populated than the 'losses'.

I'd even go so far as to say that a lot of our best work happens in pitches. Maybe it's the competition and knowing you've got to shine, perhaps it's something to do with the restrictions being lifted, or it could be the tight time frames that create that bit of energy. There's nothing like a creative pitch to bring out a bit of an 'anything's possible' frame of mind. And that can foster some good results.

  • Urban Splash Smith's Dock
  • Urban Splash Smith's Dock
  • Urban Splash Smith's Dock

One thing that a pitch can miss out on though, is the process that's required to deliver really good and (importantly) really effective creative. The stuff that we're really proud of and clients are really happy with. The stuff that get's clients the results they want and gets us the recognition we want.

That's because a blind creative pitch removes the really importrant thing that drives good design: a good partnership. The best work we've done has almost always come from a really good partnership between us and a client: We work hard to understand exactly what it is they need, and they trust us to deliver. That's basically the ideal.

Architecture Foundation Spoken Logo idea

When we do a good piece of work, we spend time speaking with clients and their customers. We discuss (argue) amongst ourselves about the best way forward. We check and double check what we're proposing. Then we check again.

And here's the importrant bit: Quite often, the solution to the problem deviates from what might have been in a client brief, and it's only once we've been through the process of interrogation that you get to the bottom of what's really needed. Sometimes the most important questions are the ones you didn't think to ask.

So looking at the 'lost pitch' archive again, I realised something: in almost all cases we responded to a written brief only, often without a face to face meeting. We lost because we presented something wide of the mark. I'll admit that. We focussed on the wrong thing, presented solutions that were off budget, we picked a colour that the client didn't like or we were overly 'broad' with our thinking and missed the small stuff.

That's where the partnership comes in. Once you sit down with someone, understand what they're opinions are, the history that's lead them to commission design, who's responsible for decision making, what the budget is, what it might grow to (and so on), you create better, more effective work. The odds are more in our favour to come up with something unexpected, but right. It's the shrouded secrecy of a pitch that prevents that, and that can prevent the best and right solution coming to the foreground.

When you base a large piece of creative work on a written brief and no consultation, you run the risk of missing the unwritten things between the lines.

  • Eureka Children's Museum
  • The Hepworth Wakefield Launch Campaign
  • The Hepworth Wakefield Launch Campaign
  • Make Believe Anti Tramlines group
  • Make Believe Anti Tramlines group