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In-depth: Virtual pitch vs physical pitch: Has the ad world accepted the new normal?

With the industry now functioning on the back of virtual pitches, we ask experts how the change is affecting business and relationships between agencies and clients

The pandemic has led to a lot of changes in the way businesses function. For the advertising world, work from home means brainstorming sessions happening from behind the screens. Even pitches- an integral part of the creative process were forced to go virtual. An advertising pitch essentially communicates an agency’s marketing strategy for a brand or a potential client in the most creative manner. 

The pitch is one of the most important components of a creative journey, that decides the future relationship between a brand and an agency. Now that most pitches have been forced to go virtual, do they hold the same impact? Are the relationships and the dynamics between a client and agency affected?

Ranji Cherian

According to Ranji Cherian, President and Managing Partner - South, DDB Mudra, the chemistry is not affected by screens as online meetings are much more focused, and stay on topic for most part. “Yes, human connection and meeting a client or a brand team across the table over a cup of coffee is far more important in nurturing the client-agency relationship as well as understanding each other better,” Cherian added. 

Ramanuj Shastry

Expressing similar thoughts, Ramanuj Shastry, Co-Founder and Director at Infectious Advertising, stated pitching is all about story-telling and if you have an enthralling story to tell, the medium doesn’t matter. “The only way to impress clients at new business pitches - be it in person or virtually - is to knock their socks off with strategic acuity and creative brilliance. You can ‘connect’ all you like, but no one’s giving you their business unless you are ‘bloody good’,” he added.  

Mukund Olety

Chemistry is crucial for any relationship to work, more so while forging new relationships. Virtual meetings put all the focus on work and this is why the ideas need to be solid and detailed as per Mukund Olety, Chief Creative Officer at VMLY&R. 

He also said that while there is an X factor to in-person meets and presenting the work but that’s not to say chemistry can’t brew over a Zoom or Teams call. 

Ashish Khazanchi

Ashish Khazanchi, Managing Partner at Enormous, said in the last two years, most agencies have figured how to work around the situation and ‘connection’ is not an issue anymore. He said this is also giving them a chance to work with clients across different geographies. 

How virtual pitching has affected the advertising industry? 

It is not only the pitching process that has changed but many other factors around it like the number of pitches done in a year, the importance given to a pitch, and who to pitch for is also changing. Agencies are equally devoted to working for short-term campaigns and work that builds a brand instead of a one-off film. 

For example, Khazanchi revealed that they are focusing on retainer campaigns and are mostly not doing pitches.  “It does turn out to be a much better situation for our client to build a brand rather than just films with an agency. We are working with a lot of start-ups and they do need a lot of hand-holding and constant innovation not only on big campaigns but also on small things that keep happening through the year. We work on both, but we prefer working on retainer campaigns.” 

Asked if this stops new business potential for the agency, he said, “The point is that we must do our work much better. All the work that we have been doing for the past year, whether it was the launch of House of Abhinandan Lodha or the campaigns we have done for Radio, Venky’s have all been spectacularly successful. If you have managed to do that there is no better referral than a happy client. Campaigns that have worked create the pathway for more clients to come to you.”

On the other hand, Shastry said all their pitches for new business are virtual today but that does not change how emotionally and mentally draining the process is for the pitching team. He added that we live today in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world and no one can predict what will happen in the next six months. “Clients have certainly become more ‘promiscuous’ over the last decade or so and the pandemic has made them even more so. But projects are okay too- quick and good money.”

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