Asians in general are far more definitive, far more confident in their self belief and ability, and far more proud of their professional acumen.,” says Pratap Bose, the just-appointed COO of Mudra, when asked whether pitch consultants would work in India.
Visa’s Rajiv Kapoor is certainly confident of his acumen, but sees merit in the role that pitch consultants can play. “The insight pitch consultants provide in their independent assessment and knowledge of the wider pool of relevant and suitable candidates certainly helps in decision making.”
“Pitch consultants can help organizations identify the more professional players in an environment that has become more dynamic but also more disparate. The advertising and marketing industry in Asia has progressed quite rapidly over the past few years, and while that means there are more players in the field, this has also led to varying levels of professionalism.”
Spatial Access’ Madhvani says that, “As a pitch consultant, I would be duty bound to say that the pitch consultant can play a very important role but that could also be construed as a sales pitch. Here’s what Harjeet Singh Juneja, Deputy General Manager for lubricants at HPCL has to say: “ We wish to place on record the positive contribution your involvement made to the whole process, right from articulating our communication needs, brief development, identifying pitch evaluation criteria and final assessment of pitch presentations..”
Madhvani continues, “Some sceptics among your readers will say “ah! but HPCL is a PSU, they don’t know marketing. They need help from external consultants we don’t” I’m sure there are some marketing men who believe they can do a better job at marketing than Lalit Modi did with the IPL and so we will be indulgent. In a recent pitch that we were involved in, the agencies gave the client an ultimatum. The client was asked to sack the pitch consultant or else the agencies would not present. Neither was the consultant sacked nor did the agencies stay away from the presentation! I leave the rest to your imagination.”
Starcom MediaVest’s Ravi Kiran believes that the pitch consultant takes the easy way out, and should try and correct the remuneration structure, “Unfortunately, too few consultants have the courage to question the client.”
As the debates and discussions carry on, Madhvani’s point is the most stark. Will agencies who have committed to the AAAI that they would not participate in R3’s proposed agency audit stay away from any big pitch that R3 (or any other pitch consultant) is overseeing?
A number of the agencies in India have benefited from the pitch consultant’s role — even where R3 is the consultant. Omnicom’s OMD, for example, has bagged the J&J business in India thanks to a pitch that R3 conducted.
Then there are clients as large as Visa, which see value in pitch consultants.
Is wishing away the pitch consultant wishful thinking?
Consultant - Meenakshi Madhvani, managing partner, Spatial Access
“The recent flurry of hyper activity by the 3As of I to keep the door locked on pitch consultants is a joke. The agencies don’t want pitch consultants because it is alleged that pitch consultants bring down remuneration. This is ludicrous! Agencies are the ones who offer fees lower than the mandated 15% in their fee proposals! Not only that but many a times the agency will state up front in their submissions that they are willing to enter into discussion on reductions! This even before they have won the account.”
CEO - Pratap Bose, CEO, Ogilvy & Mather Ltd India Board
“The need for pitch consultants is akin to a ‘hand carved walking stick’. It is a crutch that an unsure marketing director or his team, leans on to.The truth is very simple. If clients have people with the competent skill sets to arrive at a decision or to make a judgment call, they don’t really need a pitch consultant. It’s the hesitant, unprepared, and procrastinating client who needs one!I have heard umpteen clients justifying the reasons as to why they need them. I still am not convinced. Moreover, none of those umpteen clients that I know was ever a market leader! The resistance to these consultants in Asia is very apparent.”
CEO - Ravi Kiran, CEO, South Asia, Starcom MediaVest Group
“No...it’s not working. Consultants are taking the easy way out and instead of professionalising clients, they are putting enormous pressure on the fragile agency business, . Truth is, consultants don’t have the intellectual and moral highground and most agencies dont’ trust them. I haven’t heard any Asian agency introducing any new remuneration practice. I suggested to a consultant last month that instead of only sitting in judgment when it comes to agency delivery, they should also question the practices clients follow and perhaps conduct a client perception survey, that will rate the best clients and create normative client behaviour.”
Marketing head - Rajiv Kapoor, regional head of Mktg, Visa International Asia Pac
“Appointing a new agency is an important decision for any organization and is one that requires extensive time and resources in order to appoint the most suitable agency for its needs. This is where pitch consultants can help as they spend much more time on the ground meeting, understanding and evaluating agencies regularly. They are aware of the strengths and weaknesses of many agencies, not just the larger well established ones, they are also able to track the specific talents of particular agencies, some relatively unknown.”
Marketing head - Premjeet Sodhi, executive vice president, Initiative Media
“In this era of collaboration where the success of a business depends on multiple facets of the marketing mix; choosing the right partners is the most important thing for a business. It’s not about deciding whether an agency is good or bad. There are no absolutes. All agencies have a character and certain strengths that may or may not be suitable for every client. A ‘Pitch’ is a simulation which may not reveal the true character of the agency unless it is aided by structured exercises and assignments designed for the purpose. Pitch Consultants can aid companies to bring more objectivity to the decision.”