To those who have pitched and lost.

By Egotist / / I’m in a fug. I’m sluggish. I’m agitated. I’m like a lovelorn teenager who’s just been dumped. Yes, I’m in the midst of that pitch-loss after-glow. Can I get some compassionate leave? It’s hard to shake. There’s no easy way out of it. Unless the client changes their mind, which they never do. Except that time when they did. Unfortunately, that time we were the initial winners and the top guy decided to give it to his mate’s agency after all. Fastest account loss ever. I wonder, do clients have any idea of the Herculean effort that goes into (losing) a pitch? The amount we as agencies speculate (aka gamble) to accumulate. For a standard-sized agency, you’re looking at planners, suits, creatives, designers, the digital guys, the editors and producers. A dozen, minimum. Often many more. And the hours? Weekends are, of course, de rigeur. Maybe one before the tissue and another before the real deal. And then long nights powered by takeaways in between.

There’s something to be said for the team-bonding forged in the crucible of a full-on pitch situation. But I still prefer a night in with my family in front of some shit telly.

And if you don’t win, there’s little consolation. It’s all or nothing. No second prizes. Nothing to show for your efforts except a stack of A1 polyboard sitting in the corner waiting for someone to decide whether to re-use it or just bin it. A pitch loss can be so discombobulating. You have to believe you’re going to win it to find the motivation while you count down the fast trains home you’re missing.

Any pitch-leader worth their salt will cultivate that belief. Can you imagine how hollow an experience a pitch without hope would be?

Just checked: that ache in the pit of my stomach is still there. What’s best? Going first? Going last? In the past, I’ve worked on a pitch where the intermediary gave us the wink in the meeting as if to say “It’s in the bag” and the story we heard was that the next agency actually made the client cry.

Hard to compete with tears. Clients have emotions too; we’d just never considered it.

The one rule of thumb is, you just never know. It could have been like pulling teeth in there but they might still appoint you. Conversely, you could have them eating out of your hand in the presentation (“It was a slam dunk!”) and still get the phone call of doom. And then the thankless thankyous to share with the wider team. There are some pitches you look back on and say you weren’t the right fit anyway, the work wasn’t on the money or the strategy was off, but the ones where you offered quality in great quantity and still come up short, it’s bewildering. “How do we get it right next time?” Let’s be honest. It can just be dumb luck – or lack of it. The team that’s done nothing all year pulls it out of the bag. The strategy chimed with an article the head honcho read the day before. They hate green. And puns. And you.

If you have an average of 4 agencies on each pitch, that gives you a 25% chance of winning. Putting it another way, you have to suck up 3 losses for every win. This is no industry for the faint-hearted.

And if we estimate 3 routes for each agency, there’s 12 campaigns and only one winner (or less – but don’t get me started on that). We’re all going to need a bigger bottom drawer. So, do I volunteer to go over the top again? Get straight back on the horse? I’m just not sure I can take another pitch-loss in quick succession. Need I ask? It’s what we do. And those RFI’s all sound SO promising. Once more unto the breach, dear friends…