Each group will blend the marketing mix differently

In reply to Robert Smith’s letter (DW 17 January), I can only say well done, but the argument just doesn’t stack up. The point that I was making was that the debate isn’t about free-pitching, but about freedom, freedom to market your business as you see fit.

Smith is, of course, correct in that if the cost of a pitch outweighs the potential gain then the invitation should be gracefully declined.

The issue, which Smith seems to be reinforcing, is that it is a business decision whether to pitch for work. It is not something that I believe should be forced on an industry by an ethics committee. Consultancies do build marketing activities into their annual budgets which are, of course, ultimately reflected in fees. But from my experience those groups that pitch for free are no more expensive than those that don’t.

Inflammatory, and inaccurate, comments about fees increasing ‘severalfold’ and free-pitching being the arena for ‘desperate groups’ are very unhelpful to this debate. As for it being of no benefit to a client, good design comes from a good process. It is incredibly valuable to a client to experience this process first hand before selecting a consultant.

I also have an issue with Smith’s analogy between the design and retail industries.

A pitch, free or otherwise, is a sample to aid consultancy selection. It is the hook without the line and sinker. Every power drill on sale has a sample on the shop floor. This activity has a cost in ‘not for sale’ display models but the return outweighs the investment.

Smith’s analogy of giving away power drills for free would be comparable with consultancies giving away the complete design concept, implementation package and on-site management as part of a pitch.

This is not pitching, this is gross stupidity. Smith’s analogy is inaccurate and reduces the debate on free-pitching to a bout of client/ designer mud-slinging with the client cast as evil exploiter and the designer as innocent artisan trying to eke out an honest crust.

Also, my apologies to the Design Business Association. When I used the term anti-competitive it was in the literal sense, not the legal sense, I merely meant the DBA prevents its members from competing on a level playing field with those in the industry who view free-pitching as a legitimate marketing activity.

Colum Lowe

Head of store design



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