The peculiarities of the pitch process in the Middle East are damaging the region’s advertising industry, according to the chief executive of Dubai-based Water Brand Group.
In an essay published in the latest edition of Campaign, Bob Kahn calls for an overhaul of accepted pitch practices which allow clients to make unfair demands of agencies.
The former managing director of Ogilvy & Mather in New York writes: “The RFP (Request for Proposal) process, which is used all over the world, was introduced to achieve fairness and price competitiveness but unfortunately it has become misused by many clients in this market to extract unreasonable demands from agencies and often compel them to deliver free work to clients without legal restrictions.”
Kahn complains that typical briefs are poorly prepared and ask for extensive campaign plans to be submitted within unrealistic deadlines – and without any opportunity to discuss these with the ultimate decision-maker. Furthermore, the requirement for such detailed submissions strips the winning agency of bargaining power when it comes to agreeing fees, he says.
Kahn wants clients to meet each agency individually to present their brief, pay each agency a fee to develop creative concepts which stay in the ownership of the agency until a formal agreement is signed and select a shortlist of no more than three agencies.
The imbalance of power in the pitching process has long been a cause for complaint but is likely to worsen in the current economic conditions. The chief executive of Procter & Gamble recently described the emergence of “a buyer’s market” in the global advertising industry and this is a sad fact of life for agencies. Perhaps Kahn’s remarks are therefore more timely than ever before. However, the likelihood of overhauling such long-established practices in the Middle East seems remote.