Free-pitching is all part of a risky business

It was interesting to read Robert Harland’s rather naïve response to Rebecca Bletcher’s letter, concerning free-pitching, and Grahame Jones’s article about putting work out to tender (DW 24 November).

As a partner in a design group since 1983, I have a great deal of experience of pitching, and what we’re talking about here is giving away our precious talent, for no immediate monetary gain.

When I set up in business with Mike Horseman, we had the highest morals and idealistic values – we never pitched for free. Times change, though, and I am sympathetic to the views of Harland, Bletcher and Jones, but we are in a fiercely competitive marketplace.

There are a lot of talented people out there. It’s not just about the work, it’s also about the personal relationship you develop with a client. If they don’t like you, then there’s no way you’re ever going to win the pitch. It’s important to consider this before going ahead and giving away your time and creative ideas.

Free-pitching is the norm in advertising, but when you’re pitching for a piece of business worth a sum with lots of noughts on the end, it is sometimes worth the gamble.

The problem is when clients ask you to pitch for a project where their annual spend could be wiped out in your pitch process. I’ve even heard of rostered consultancies being asked to pitch against each other.

Then there’s the credentials pitch. Sometimes these will merely get you on the pitch list and those worth their salt take time to put together. Yet, ‘credentials’ pitches don’t seem to fall into the free-pitch category.

In recent years, The Open Agency has free-pitched. I don’t like it, but if you’re running a business, you are also a risk-taker. Some pitches are paid and if they’re not, we ask for something as a gesture of goodwill. But, if it’s a project we really want, we’ll take that chance.

Gary Cooke, Creative director, The Open Agency, London SE1

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