BITE Focus

The pitch process is broken so how do we fix it?

Industry leaders came together at a recent Creativebrief Explores event to examine how to put the respect back into the pitching process.

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director


“The pressure cooker environment of the pitch puts a huge pressure on the people in our industry.” Charlie Carpenter, CEO of Creativebrief, laid out the challenge facing the industry opening the Creativebrief Explores event, designed to provoke an honest conversation about respect and the pitch.

Carpenter explained that at a time when mental health is top of the industry agenda tackling the pressure of the traditional pitch process needs to be a business priority. He added, “The pitch process in its traditional form does a lot to exacerbate a lack of diversity at the top of agencies.”

The event, held at the Curzon cinema in Bloomsbury, lifted the lid on the creative and commercial opportunities presented by placing respect at the heart of the creative industries.

The pitch process in its traditional form does a lot to exacerbate a lack of diversity at the top of agencies.

Charlie Carpenter

Mutual respect drives creativity

Annie Gallimore, Managing Director of ENGINE, pointed to the role of respect and transparency in fostering good client and agency relationships. She highlighted the transparency of the government’s pitching process as an example of a respectful way of working.

Having worked both agency and client-side, Gallimore has a full perspective of the importance of mutual respect. She pointed to the example of a client who took the time and energy to tell both winning and losing agencies face to face. A fact which reflects the reality that respect doesn’t just extend to the agencies you choose to work with, but those you choose not to as well.

Sophie More, Marketing Director at Brewdog, added that respect is vital because the best relationships between brands and agencies aren’t simply transactional and hierarchical. “It is about building a real relationship,” she added.

Reuben Arnold, Vice President of Marketing and Product EMEA at Starbucks, explained that for clients, because agencies play such a fundamental role, respect is paramount. “If you genuinely see your agency as an extension of your team and brand, then it is vital that relationship starts from a place of respect,” he added.

Respect for time is paramount 

The panel addressed the challenge of just how much of the work that goes into a traditional pitch process takes place outside of office hours. “As an industry we do have an issue with long hours and it definitely has an effect,” explained ENGINE’s Gallimore. It can be an issue which particularly impacts employees who have caring responsibilities.

Cristina Loaiza, Global Head of Brand at, feels that more needs to be done to assess how to become more inclusive in the pitch process.

Paul McEntee, Founder of MC&T, added that agencies also need to be braver as to why they are in a pitch process in the first place. “You really have to make some brave choices about what you are going for,” he explained. He shared the experience of being in a pitch process over the Christmas period that went badly, urging the audience to listen to their gut instinct.

If you genuinely see your agency as an extension of your team and brand, then it is vital that relationship starts from a place of respect.

Reuben Arnold

Creative collaboration for in-house teams

The rise of in-house creative capabilities also topped the agenda with the panel discussing the fact that these teams are very rarely involved in any pitch process. A fact which means that there is at times friction between in-house and agency teams.

Brewdog’s More said, “traditionally [in-house teams] haven’t been involved in the campaigns and marcomms sides of things which creates huge tensions when you then have an agency working on something and an internal team getting really annoyed by it.”

MC&T’s McEntee added that the role of the agency is to challenge the internal creative teams. He explained, “The internal teams will be focused on brand guidelines whereas our focus is always on what is relevant to consumers and culture more broadly.”

Respect for diversity and inclusivity

The current lack of diversity, particularly amongst creative teams, was picked up by Brewdog’s More, who noted, “There is a complete lack of understanding; it is often assumed that we want to have a bunch of blokes that have previously worked on beer ads.” She added that the brand’s target audience is much broader than that as Brewdog’s mission as a business is to make a wider range of people passionate about the brand.

“We want to make sure our advertising is inclusive, so we challenge [agencies] and ask can we see more diverse thinking. If clients aren’t demanding it, you won’t see the change in agencies. We need to drive it,” More added.