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Picture: 123RF/jirsak
Picture: 123RF/jirsak

In psychology, “feedback” is loosely considered information about a process or interaction that is provided to enable a person or entity to make adjustments that eliminate problems or optimise functioning. The same is true for marketers, agencies and pitches.

The cornerstone of the intermediary process is feedback, and it was a founding feature of the Agency Search & Selection Company (IAS). It was seen as important to be able to help agencies understand how they performed, which areas they were weak in and how they could up their game for future pitches.

Agencies that get feedback have a chance to meet or exceed standards and improve their performance based on real issues. Without it, they’re left guessing at what they could have done differently and what needs to change to create a winning pitch.

We’ve worked with agencies that have applied the learnings that feedback offers and have gone on to hit a winning streak of pitches.

Feedback that makes a difference

The vital feedback from intermediaries is about how an agency communicates during the pitch, presenting their credentials in the best light and appealing to the core brief. The fact that intermediaries are part of the discussion when a marketer is narrowing down its choices means we have inner-circle information to guide agencies.

Interestingly, many marketers are reluctant to give direct feedback to agencies, often to avoid a challenging discussion or disagreement. For an intermediary, however, it’s not personal. We are not naming a winner, merely sharing feedback on the client’s choice without fear or favour.

We have no axe to grind with either party, so feedback is dispassionate and based on real data and events throughout the pitch process.

Why timing is vital

Over the years, we’ve learned that the timing of an intermediary’s feedback is crucial. Share an assessment too soon and you’re dealing with a group of people who have put their hearts into the pitch process and have lost, leaving emotions raw. The time, resources and particularly the energy agency personnel put into the pitch includes actually seeing themselves working with the new client, and disappointment runs through so many levels – creativity, strategic thinking, the developing of unique touch points and more.

Feedback too early is difficult to absorb through the emotion and would be wasted. But because intermediaries keep an audit of every part of the process, we are able to give all feedback in due time, when the team is ready to absorb the information and use it for growth and development.

The feedback proves valuable in the short and the long term. As Andrew Shuttleworth, co-founder and COO of Brave Group, says: “We really needed help from the IAS with our chemistry sessions and we recently applied its feedback from a previous pitch into a recent process. It worked extremely well for us.”

Feedback for winners

Of equal importance is the intermediary’s meeting with the pitch winners to ensure the elated team is clear about why it was awarded the work and what it promised to deliver during the highs and lows of the pitch.

Even with the value of feedback clear to all, many pitches are still not run by intermediaries. They should be – when they are, everybody wins.

Johanna McDowell is CEO of the Independent Agency Search & Selection Company (IAS) and Scopen partner.

The big take-out:

The timing of an intermediary’s feedback is crucial. … Feedback too early is difficult to absorb through the emotion and would be wasted.


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