Experts disagree over pitch process in Nigeria’s IMC industry

Practitioners in the nation’s Integrated Marketing Communications industry have expressed divergent views over various pitch processes in the country. While some argued that a pitch was a sham and cover-up to pick a particular agency the client or multinational company wanted to work with, others noted pitches were still credible and necessary in selecting capable agencies in the IMC mix.

The Managing Consultant – Market Space Nigeria, George Thorpe, said the practice of conducting pitches to select agencies by brand owners or multinationals still exists in Nigeria. He, however, pointed out that pitches were done based on the segments of the market, explaining that it was not all segments that require clients calling for pitches.

Asked if clients and multinationals still call for pitches, he said: “Yes, they do but for some segments of the market. When you say market, you have to break it down because there are some segments that don’t need a pitch.”

According to him, pitches are either conducted or not depending on what the needs of that market segment are while taking cognisance of the role of man-know-man in a pitch process.

In his words: “I said that depending on what the needs of that segment are. If it is a man-know-man-segment, you will just organise yourself accordingly if that also fits your own ethical posture. There are some clients or agencies that would say for ethical reasons; I won’t do a man-know-man business.”

Corroborating Mr. Thorpe’s assertions, the immediate past President of the Experiential Marketers Association of Nigeria (EXMAN), Kehinde Salami, affirmed that pitches still hold in Nigeria, stressing that pitches take place every week or month in the country. He pointed out that pitches were seen as avenues that clients and multinationals use to score and know the best agency they want to work with that can solve their marketing problems. According to him, the issue of man-know-man in winning pitches does not come into play as clients and multinationals are driven by selecting agencies that can deliver value to them.

In his words: “I think it is becoming increasingly clear that where value lies is what multinationals and companies are increasingly looking for and from my own personal experience and the agencies that l have spoken with I think that is more overriding than the man-know-man issue.
“You may have the man-know-man issue cropping up when it comes to tactical campaigns but not in all strategic projects.”

Debunking their claims, the Project General Abelinis Limited, Deji Orunkoyi, pointed out that his agency had stopped attending pitches because it is a sham and cover-up to pick a particular agency that the client already knew they would work with. Mr. Orunkoyi, however, added that the only pitch he found worthy in all his years of working in the IMC space was the pitch conducted 12 years ago by the Nigerian Bottling Company Limited.

In his words: “I think like 10, 12 years ago; the only pitch I value in Nigeria so far is the pitch we made for NBL with one of these agencies and that was the only time we were paid for a pitch which is the normal standard. I don’t just do a presentation in a pitch for you and nobody pays for that. We are actually doing them a favour because no matter how useless that pitch is, they are going to take one or two things from it.”

Mr. Orunkoyi continued: “Yes, there are a lot of pitches and most times clients do it just to satisfy their bosses to say I did an open
pitch but the truth is they already knew the agency that would get the job.

“Often times, a pitch is just a sham and a cover-up process; the real thing is that over 70% of jobs are given by clients to agencies on
man-know-man bases.”

According to the Project General, clients and multinationals should emulate a company like BAT that sends briefs to only registered
agencies and at the end of the day appoints the agency with the best solution to solve their marketing problems.

Asked if a pitch was a waste of time, he answered: “Yes, it is a waste of time because the clients already knew who they wanted to work with, while some other companies don’t even waste time for pitches, BAT, for example. BAT doesn’t call for pitch, once you are a registered agency it will send you a brief, give it your solution and it will go with what you have because it trusts you. So, it should be more of trust and not trying to compete all the time.”


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