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Pitching on Facebook Live: Publicity, stunt, PR or plain innovative?

In a first, Nearbuy went on Facebook Live and invited agencies to pitch. Salt Brand Solutions too responded on Facebook Live. Around 79 agencies pitched for Nearbuy and the brand shortlisted 14 for the second round. spoke to industry experts to find out if pitching live on Facebook makes sense

Akansha Mihir Mota | Mumbai | March 3, 2017

Facebook-Live Mahesh Chauhan pitching live on Facebook

When different brands were preparing requests for pitch proposal (RFPP) and sending emails to creative agencies, Nearbuy founder Ankur Warikoo came on Facebook Live and invited agencies to pitch. Nearbuy received a very good response from agencies after this unique step. Taking the same route, Salt Brand Solutions’ Mahesh Chauhan went on Facebook Live to pitch for the account.

Showing interest in the ‘underdogs’ of the industry, Warikoo asked agencies to send in their credentials. The pitch note went viral, receiving around 11,000 views; 307 people reacted and 89 shared the video till the time of filing this report.

The brand received around 79 pitch proposals and selected 14 agencies for the next round. Nearbuy intends to spend around Rs 50-60 crore on marketing this year starting April.

Ankur Warikoo Ankur Warikoo

Explaining the reason for calling a pitch on Facebook Live to, Warikoo said, “We have worked with brand agencies in the past and we were actually very disappointed with how the entire pitching process takes place. The top agencies almost take offence if we call for a pitch because they are like ‘Shahrukh thodi na audition karta hai kisi movie ke liye’ (Shahrukh Khan doesn’t audition for any movie). So they either say no or ask for a pitch fee. The smaller agencies are so many that we generally don’t know whom to ask.”

He further said, “We thought we are a social media brand and we use so much of social media already. So we thought why not use it for something that is equally important like finding a brand agency.”

Calling a pitch on Facebook Live is a first. Asked if it was a risk for Nearbuy, Warikoo said, “I think it is the first time in the country a client has given a brief publically. Suddenly everything I think and feel about Nearbuy in my head is out there in the open. Our competitors can read it, people can visualise it, someone can pick it up. But we believe in our execution capability more than anything else. So, even if someone captured our thought, they will not be able to capture our execution.”

Salt Brand Solutions is a budding creative agency established by Mahesh Chauhan and Minakshi Achan. Chauhan at one time was the Group CEO of Rediffusion Y&R. One of the shortlisted agencies, taking a very different route than the others, Chauhan reached out to Warikoo through Facebook Live, showing his intent to pitch for Nearbuy.

Talking about the idea behind going on Facebook and pitching live, Chauhan said, “The idea came originally from Warikoo. Warikoo asked to send videos, PPT and anything that helps him to understand how you think. I wanted my message to get across and in a way that I stand out in the crowd of PPTs, documents and everything else. Therefore, we decided to do Facebook Live.”

Chauhan said, “I have always felt the pitching process is a little obsolete in the country. The world has changed, but the pitching process has not changed. If you see the history of advertising, the best work comes out of a partnership between individuals that go beyond the work.”

Was it a risk for Chauhan? He said, “If you don’t risk it, how will you win. I put myself under tremendous pressure to do this. I am fortunate that it worked out in a way that the world liked it. I didn’t realise what I did until I did it. People tell me I am a natural risk taker. Doing something of this sort needs a lot of conviction and courage to do, but I am genetically that way probably.”

Warikoo also mentioned, “The most encouraging thing is that out of the top 15 agencies in the country, seven have applied. These are the agencies that had earlier refused to pitch. We have gone through each and every pitch.”

When asked if he is willing to show his presentations on Facebook Live, Chauhan answered, “We are small and nimble. We completely need to go outdoors and compete with the networks because the networks hide behind their sizes and pretend to be more intelligent. I can say this because I have run networks in the country and in the region.”

Chauhan doesn’t think that this sort of pitching would become a style going forward. “Not every client is as flamboyant as Ankur is. Some clients want to be more serious and more debated and deliberated. There are different kinds of human beings and some would like this and some would not like this,” he said.

Warikoo is very clear what he wants from his brand partner. “We want to find a brand agency with whom we can work for a really long time. One thing that has been missing in our marketing so far is the consistency of a certain message. We think we are very good at storytelling, but what we need to get good at is the consistency of that story. We are going through this immense amount of work, just to make sure we are going to find the right kind of partner.”

Looking at the success rate of the call for a creative pitch on Facebook Live, Nearbuy intends to call a media and public relations pitch later.

What industry thinks of Facebook Live pitching

KV Sridhar KV Sridhar

KV Sridhar, Founder, Hyper Collective, finds the idea very refreshing. He said, “Anything new is very good. But pitching publicly exposes your ability or inability because it is on record and secondly, you would not be able to do justice because there are a lot of non-disclosure agreements that you sign.”

Would you say that this would become a new age thing now? Pops answered, “I don’t think this would happen like that. It is a very serious business. You may have some start-up companies doing that, but this won’t become a trend for sure.”

Amit Wadhwa Amit Wadhwa

Amit Wadhwa, President, Dentsu Impact, said, “I found the idea interesting. They have found a different way to put forward to invite an agency for a pitch. What is exciting from an agency’s point of view is that these people are approaching it differently and hence would be willing to do different things. I think creatively also Nearbuy would be an exciting brand to work on. But being unusual won’t solve everything. A briefing session is always a two-way communication. The briefing is not just to understand the brand. The briefing is also to judge the chemistry of the agency. The shortlist they are going to do would be on the basis of the note someone would have sent and on the credentials. For me honestly, the briefing is far beyond that. They have actually done a small PR before even actually advertising. For Salt, by going on Facebook Live to pitch, they would have actually got the client’s fancy.”

Soumitra Karnik Soumitra Karnik

Having a slightly different view on the issue, Soumitra Karnik, NCD of Dentsu Impact, said, “I don’t know why anyone would do it in the first place. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but definitely a great thing. Because then you know that the company is very transparent and is very transparent in its pitching process. I would immediately position the company as very fresh.”

Giving his perspective on Salt pitching on Facebook, Karnik said, “Why would an agency pitch on Facebook is what I am not able to figure out. I am not able to wrap my head around that because in a competitive and non-disclosure era, why would you do something like this? This could also be the agency’s attempt at being more publically visible.”

 Virat Tandon Virat Tandon

Virat Tandon, CEO, Mullen Lintas, commented, “I don’t think it is hugely radical or anything like that. He has just made it more casual and personal because you get to directly listen from the horse's mouth of what he wants to do. He has just cut off a lot of layers and formalities by going FB Live. I wouldn't mind pitching for the brand if it was something I wanted to do. But to give your pitch on a broadcast medium is risky. I don’t understand the motive to pitch on Facebook Live. There is the only audience when you want to pitch and that is your client and that is the audience to whom you need to talk to. From the brand’s point of view, inviting agencies on Facebook Live makes sense, but for an agency I don’t think it makes sense to pitch on Facebook Live as your audience is only the brand and not the rest of the world.”

Naresh Gupta Naresh Gupta

Naresh Gupta, Chief Strategy Officer and Managing Partner, Bang In The Middle, calls it a publicity stunt. He said, “Personally I think it is the best stunt I have seen from a brand in a very long time. If you are looking at a pitch with hundreds participating, it really can’t be a serious pitch, it has to be called a stunt.”

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