Navigating through the pitch landscape : an examination of clients, consultants, and advertising agencies during the pitch process

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Smith, Jodi Lisa

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The pitch process is critical for both clients and agencies as it is the time period when clients are trying to identify the best agencies to hire and agencies are trying to win business. There are a multitude of variables that play a large role in the success of a client-agency relationship; however, the specific actions, events, and dynamics that occur during the pitch process can be especially important in setting the tone and influencing the outcome of the partnership. Many studies have examined various dynamics and phases of the client-agency relationship, but few have specifically focused on the earliest phase; the pitching process. This study fills this void by providing insights from clients, advertising agencies, and third-party consultants involved in all aspects of the pitching process to better understand the dynamics of the beginning stages of the client-agency life cycle. The literature review examines personal relationships, business relationships, and client-agency relationships and includes examples of relationship development models. Although these models provide a good backdrop for the way a client and an agency develop their relationship, they do not delve into specific aspects of the Pitch. Social Exchange Theory (SET) and Expectancy Confirmation Theory (ECT) provide insights both into how the pitch process facilitates exchange between clients and agencies and the ways in which all parties involved in a pitch have certain expectations. The extent that expectations are either confirmed or disconfirmed can lead to increased or decreased satisfaction with the overall pitch process. The four main research questions driving this study related to attraction, trust, and satisfaction. Respondents were asked how both attraction and trust were experienced and could be accelerated during the pitch process and were asked to identify the various components that were involved in the “most-satisfying” and “least-satisfying” pitches. The results indicated that both logistical and relational factors played a key role in the way in which a pitch process was experienced and although clients, agency professionals, and consultants shared many thoughts, each constituency offered a unique perspective. This research brings attention to the level of disconnect that occurs among the various constituencies and makes recommendations regarding ways to improve the pitching landscape.




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