I have proof that designers can be their own worst enemy; that those who undertake free pitching create the expectation of just that. And unless they stop doing it, it won’t stop.
This is of course good news: killing off speculative creative is in the hands of agencies, not clients. All they have to do is stop agreeing to do it, offering to do it or talking about it. And replace it with something else.
Ah, but I hear you cry, where is my proof? Here follows a real life example of a client-agency interaction on email. It was volunteered to me by DBA member, Kevin Robson of Wonder Stuff Studio in Gosforth.
Kevin responded to a free pitch request using the DBA member template letter and DBA backing to support their argument. Here is the response he received from the client.
Email from client to DBA member:
“Thanks for your email earlier in the week.
I totally understand your viewpoint (against) free pitching. I had the same feedback from another agency quite recently too.
At the moment we work with several agencies who are willing to submit speculative designs. I appreciate that this represents a significant investment from the agencies and I’m very grateful for it as for our project, we are mainly looking for clear, attractive layouts and seeing these before we appoint an agency is really helpful for us.
I am grateful for your email as it does give us something to think about with regards to our tender process. I really like your work so will bear you in mind if we move away from tenders involving speculative design.
So what can be taken from this situation?
– The agency community has more influence than they realise.
This client has indicated that they may well change their approach if the other agencies decided not to free pitch.
–Free pitching is interpreted as charitable giving on the part of the agency. That’s how the client sees it.They believe that agencies that free pitch wantto do this because they agree to it. The client recognises that this is a significant investment from the agencies and believe this is fine and quite frankly, who’s to blame them if the majority of agencies go with it?
– The agency sets the pace for the relationship
The agency behaviour conditions the client behaviour which conditions the agency behaviour and so it goes on. If the client has had free pitches before and they behave as if that’s the norm and they’re not challenged on it, they will continue to request it, thinking it’s the norm. If agencies have done free pitches before, grumble but continues to do them nothing changes.
– Real change is possible if three things happen:
1. Agencies act together as one. When one or two designers refuse a free pitch there is a chance for change. But the chances of a move away from speculative design are increased significantly when more designers adopt this behaviour.
2. Agencies adopt strong principles. Each agency has to have a culture that says no to speculative creative. They have to set themselves up to win business differently. Forget how they got here and why. Forget what everyone else is doing. Concentrate on what they are doing and why.
3. Agencies want to change. If agencies want to continue to free pitch then there will not be any objection from clients to this. So the only people standing in their way are the agencies themselves.
– If the latter two points happen, then the first point will inevitably result
There will be a bell curve to change and the industry will reach a tipping point where more people will not be free pitching than those doing it. The practice of free pitching will then gradually lose traction.
–You have no chance of changing minds if you don’t aim and fire.
You have to believe you can change things for the better. Some you’ll win and some you’ll lose. But the biggest single impact of giving up the free pitch are:
You’ll feel better about what you do.
You won’t get those nagging feelings that you wasted your time. That you’re working for nothing. You’ll feel like a design professional someone who sells their expertise for money, not someone who draws pictures for free.
So come on. What’s stopping you? Let’s change the design industry, let’s kick free pitching out. If you’re curious to know what to replace free pitching with, give me a call on 020 7251 9229 or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org