How to make a winning pitch: Your input defines your output, says 22feet Tribal Worldwide's Shikha Davessar

“Sometimes, it's so important to understand the strategy of the brand, that if you don't get that correct, no matter what kind of output you deliver, they will never buy it, ” says Shikha Davessar of 22feet Tribal Worldwide.

By  Kashmeera SambamurthyMay 9, 2024 3:33 PM
How to make a winning pitch: Your input defines your output, says 22feet Tribal Worldwide's Shikha Davessar
Shikha Davessar, EVP and Head – Client Business, 22feet Tribal Worldwide, stated, "The pitching process is very costly because an agency puts a lot of energy into 2-3 weeks to create a campaign, which takes months to complete. The only sole objective is when you have gotten into the pitch, you need to win it. There is no option of losing the pitch. What we have also noticed is that there are many agencies that are so desperate to get the brand, that they don’t ask for a pitch fee. But, we need to be paid for the effort we are putting in."

Will the digital age impact agency-client relationships? Will the client see the agency differently? No, says Shikha Davessar, EVP and Head – Client Business, 22feet Tribal Worldwide, agency-client relationships in the digital age will continue to be long-term, although the terms of engagement may change.

“Within 22feet Tribal Worldwide, TTK Prestige has been our client for more than 15 years, Volkswagen has been with us for almost 10 years. Royal Enfield, which has been one of the first brand of the agency, has been with us again for more than 15 years. Whenever there are bigger projects, clients will eventually lean on digital agencies, and people who carry that experience with them.”

Edited Excerpts of a conversation with Shikha

How has the pitching process at DDB Mudra Group evolved over a period?

We are trying to bring back the old founding principles of advertising. There are certain things where we demonstrate that hunger, that ownership, that faith in what we're doing on the brand.

Over a period of time, we have lost that. The second aspect of it is, while at one level we can always overcommit, I think everyone somewhere knows what their worth is. So it becomes very easy for us to ask for their pitch. I'm very happy and I'm very proud that 70 percent of our pitches are paid pitches. So, most of the clients ensure that the agencies are being paid for the value and people they bring in. So, I think that's working really well.

Over the years, we have also realised that it's very important to put the right kind of people in those pitches. I think, what we focus on, and what we seek for is, who's passionate about that X, Y, Z category. And we'll be able to add on. So that also works very well in our creative field.

So, we have started tailor making our pitches. And that has also been a good advantage for us. Some like finance. Some like technology. Some like consumer durables. Someone has enough experience in FMCG. So all those things work in our favour.

What is the minimum duration of a pitch?

It varies. Last year, we were pitching for a brand, and we turned it out in one week. In an average scenario, we take two to three weeks minimum. Because as an agency, we make tissue sessions a practice and a process in our pitching process.

So when we are doing chemistry rounds with our clients at the beginning followed by filtration and understanding whether the client is serious or if they have just come for window shopping. The second step is when we crack strategic pieces. We prefer to have those tissue sessions with the client where we align them with the direction we are thinking and strategically move forward. So that helps.

If the pitch time is between two to three weeks on an average, we do take one week to align the clients on these tissue sessions which are strategic sessions. Because no matter what we do, those are the people who know their brands in and out. And it is going to take three weeks to learn.

We won the Mars Petcare’s mandate in 1.5 to two weeks. We won the mandate of Spotify's online platform marketing and last year was a good year for us, where we had a good hit rate in terms of pitches.

We won the mandates of Adani, ACC Ambuja, Lumina etc. There have been five to six brands which we have won and all those are market leaders.

What are the expectations from agencies during the pitching process?

In the case of a banking brand whose mandate we handle, we put down a plan on how we're going to go after that business. We won it. When we say we pitched, there are three ways of pitching.

When an agency is given a brief, 80 percent of the pitches happen at the back of clients giving us briefs, and so then we have to work on those briefs to create work. And that work creation is literally like us cracking a three-month long or a six-month long campaign in a month.

The first way of winning a pitch is to show the client your (agency’s) credentials, especially the body of work that has been created. Second is when the client puts out a brief saying, ‘Listen, I'm going to be giving you this brief. You come back to me with what are you going to do with my brand and maybe a campaign or some long strategy. You come back and tell me what kind of work you're going to create.’

Third way of winning a pitch would also be sometimes like, “This is how we are going to handle your business. Plus these are the commercials.” That's the third way of winning a pitch.’

What is your learning experience from the mandates DDB Mudra Group lost?

Last year, we lost the mandate of Swedish home furnishing brand. Despite reaching the finals, which was very difficult, there has been immense learning.

Sometimes, it could have been that we understood the brief better. And that's why now we have started nudging our clients towards tissue sessions, which was never the case earlier.

Sometimes, it's so important to understand the strategy of the brand, that if you don't get that correct, no matter what kind of output you deliver, they will never buy it.

Hence, the input defines your output.

The pitching process is very costly because an agency puts a lot of energy into 2-3 weeks to create a campaign, which takes months to complete. The only sole objective is when you have gotten into the pitch, you need to win it. There is no option of losing the pitch. What we have also noticed is that there are many agencies that are so desperate to get the brand, that they don’t ask for a pitch fee. But, we need to be paid for the effort we are putting in.

What are the pain points from an agency point of view during the pitching process?

I don't want to call it pain points, because those are sweet pain points, aren't they? Because in the end, if I win, I'm getting a good brand to work on. The only thing is our effort doubles.

Secondly, where the actual pain happens is after all the effort, when we realised that it was a window shopping exercise.

Many times, clients go cold and they take serious amounts of time to come back. If we pitch to them in two weeks’ time, they will take five weeks to come back. So these are those pain points.

How different is the pitching process for start-ups as compared to established brands?

There is no hard core difference between a start-up and an established brand. In a start-up brand, the challenges always pertain to sales and growth.

Whereas in an established brand, it could be about equity, building relevance and more about brand association.

So, it depends upon the market challenges and what the brands’ objectives are. In the case of start-ups, we handle the social media mandate of Acko, Porter, 361 Wealth Management and Lumina.

I had heard that in the digital age, the relationship between a client and an agency is short-lived. What is your take on this?

I am of the opinion that the dynamics of the relationship will not change because of a change in platform or media.

Within 22feet Tribal Worldwide, TTK Prestige has been our client for more than 15 years, Volkswagen has been with us for almost 10 years. Royal Enfield, which has been one of the first brand of the agency, has been with us again for more than 15 years.

Whenever there are bigger projects, clients will eventually lean on digital agencies, and people who carry that experience with them.

How serious is idea shopping in advertising?

Idea shopping exists. Lot of times, we see our ideas being out there as well. So, the whole pitch filtration process becomes very critical for us. That also gives us an additional responsibility to check whether we should even move forward with the pitch or not.

So we need to do our preparation, validation, and check whether the clients are serious about pitching or not. When we ask for a pitch fee and the clients agree to it, we understand their commitment to the process.

First Published on May 9, 2024 7:42 AM

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