When buying a car, it’s common practice to go for a couple of test-drives before making your purchase decision. Whether you’re in the market for a brand new Gallardo or a third-hand Multipla, you want to make sure your hard-earned money isn’t wasted on a lemon. Even though all the test-drives in the world could never make the Multipla anything but a sour piece of fruit. But even if the ugliest car ever built somehow made it to your wish list, you’d still want to make sure there’s nothing – mechanically – wrong with it.
The process of brands pitching for a new ad agency is very similar to that of buying a car. When brand managers go out shopping for agencies, the first thing they do is check the word on the street. Instead of reading Top Gear Magazine, this means checking the marketing trade press. Which agencies have been winning the most new business lately, which ones are clearing out the award shows and which ones work for Apple or Nike, or preferably both. Once you’ve compiled your long list, you cross-check the agencies with your particular needs and you’re left with the ones that match your brand. Again, just like buying a car. If the Lamborghini Aventador is a trending car topic right now, but you’re planning to spend no more than € 10.000 on a station wagon, you’re better off scratching it from your list. Or in pitching terms – if you’re looking for a campaign to promote Friday Happy Hour at your local hotdog stand, don’t call Wieden.
if you’re looking for a campaign to promote Friday Happy Hour at your local hotdog stand, don’t call Wieden
With your short list in hand, you then call any friends you may have who own the cars on your list. Is it any good, what are the pros and cons, would they recommend it? In other words; you call your brand manager buddies and ask them about their agencies; its work, its people, its culture. Based on this valuable peer intel, you can further narrow down your list, keeping only those agencies you feel could really be a match.
Then it’s time for the test-drives/ the chemistry meetings. Take the car out for a spin yourself/ sit down with the people you’d be working with. This is where you’ll conclude that in some instances what looked good in the brochure is in fact disappointing in real life. You dismiss the ones that didn’t feel right and proceed with the ones that did. Once again, as you would in a pitch process.
But nowhere in the car-purchasing funnel would you demand from the people at BMW they build you a custom car for free. To take it for a cruise on the boulevard and if you don’t like it as much as the free tailor-made car Audi made for you, just discard it telling the engineers it was very tough call, but unfortunately their design came in as a close second. Nor would you then congratulate Audi on winning your business, but nevertheless ask them to come up with another completely different design, because now that you’ve seen the possibilities you have to rethink what kind of car it is you’re really looking for.
Nowhere in the car-purchasing funnel would you demand from the people at BMW they build you a custom car for free
Of course you wouldn’t. And if you would, the car manufacturers would tell you to take your money and stick it where the sun don’t shine. And yet this is essentially what happens every day in advertising pitches around the world.
It’s madness and it has to stop. You know your brand, you know which agencies are out there and you know which ones would suit you. So don’t pitch; go for the chemistry test-drive and just choose the right car for you. It won’t be the Multipla, I can tell you that much. Build a strong partnership with your agency and in doing so, a stronger brand.