The Parallels of Politics and Pitches

Kim Walker

Kim Walker 0Comments

Posted: 16 Nov 2016


Assemble the smartest ‘hit-squad’ imaginable. Amplify both your strengths and your competitors’ weaknesses. Win with emotion over fact.

Sound familiar?

2016 will go down in history as the year that shook the political establishment. First Brexit, then Trump. Better minds are still debating the reasons for these ‘upsets’ against conventional wisdom, but I’ve been thinking about the parallels between winning in politics and winning in new business pitches.

The Brexit vote was brought about by a voluntary referendum born out of a general disaffection, like when a client falls out of love with its agency. Most elections however, are mandated just like periodic compulsory pitches are sometimes conducted in the name of corporate compliance.

The agency world is infamous for wheeling in the best and brightest for the pitch only to have them shrink into the shadows during the ‘first 100 days’. Agencies are driven to put on a great show to win hearts and minds – even if the work presented is seldom actually used.

And their Clients work on the assumption that whatever reality the Agency will face will be based on a flawless and faultless Client process and competence on their side.

Common sense (and Aprais data from over 16,000 Client-Agency evaluations) suggests otherwise. In fact, both parties are usually complicit in this. It is merely the collision between client/public expectations and the agency/political salesmanship.

As we all know, the grand promises proclaimed during the pitch often fall victim to sustainable reality. Whether political battles or agency pitches, the ‘seller’ will ultimately be held accountable to the ‘buyer’ for the gaps between perception and reality. Between the promises and the delivery.

Much has been written recently about the declining trust between client and agency. Aprais data reveals a stark 24 percent decline in Client trust in their Agency Account Management team over the past 5 years. As with any relationship, a failure to deliver on an initial promise, is a bad way to start.

Furthermore, both in politics and pitches, we see that emotions sometimes over-rule common sense. For example, a marketer may wish to change to a truly ‘cutting-edge’ or renegade agency but their own corporate values and strict internal disciplines might simply not permit such a marriage to succeed. The simple rule is, “Be careful what you wish (vote) for”.

We believe it is far more productive, less disruptive and cost effective to manage a client-agency relationship to health, rather than to pitch and change. We have data to prove it.

The burning question for our clients and most marketers is; “how do you know you’re with the most beautiful partner in the room, if all the lights are off”? How do you know that the agency you move to will be better than what you have once the ‘first 100 days’ are over?

Our benchmarks that can compare your agency performance to other similar client-agency relationships hold the answer. As does the data that shows it might be better to work on what you have before heading to a pitch.

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