Free-pitching is on the increase and is fast becoming the expected norm for annual report design, according to new research by The Jenkins Group.
The research targeted 39 client companies and raised a 44 per cent response rate, of which 35 per cent were FTSE Top 100 companies. The study included interviews with top management at Abbey National, First Leisure, Reuters and WH Smith.
It found that buyers of annual report design were unaware of reluctance from design groups to free-pitch, and in some cases free creative work was offered without being requested.
While 53 per cent of the companies surveyed cited free-pitching as their method of appointing consultancies, they also rated an understanding of the company or market as the most important criteria in consultancy selection.
“This is a fundamental discrepency – clients won’t get that in-depth understanding of the market in a free-pitch,” says Jenkins Group director Nicholas Ind. Chris North, director at Fishburn Hedges, says the survey findings are surprising. He maintains that there is a “fine line between putting new spreads together to a given guideline and showing the client how you can take the report forward from the last one without showing completely new visuals”.
Bamber Forsyth managing director Philip Mann agrees with North, saying that clients have a right to see how consultancies “demonstrate creative thinking, which may involve using visuals and spreads – but that does not mean you design next year’s annual report”.
Both North and Mann concede that some clients do demand that consultancies free-pitch. “But you will rarely get a grown-up company doing that,” says North.
Other findings of the report include a recognition among most clients that the quality of design improves over time in terms of creativity and management.
But despite this, the average length of working relationships with design groups is less than two years.