Monday poll: Should PR agencies agree to re-pitch an account?

It’s an account director’s worst nightmare. The client calls and tells him that she’d like to re-pitch the account. She’s happy with performance, you’ve exceeded your agreed objectives, but the client wants to ‘see what’s out there’. From an agency perspective, the campaign is running like clockwork – good relationship, writing style aligned, know the spokespeople, understand the issues, lots of ideas and directions to take. Now this. Question is – do you fight or do you bow out gracefully? If the client doesn’t appreciate the effort you’ve put in why continue? If it’s got to the stage of a re-pitch, do you stand a chance of retention? Can you afford the opportunity cost of the effort involved?

Then again, the client is thinking the agency might have lost its hunger. Perhaps it’s time for new blood, some fresh thinking? The campaign is going well but could we do even better? Perhaps there is something else out there? Perhaps not – but best to check you have the best team at the right agency. Why not invite a few others to see what they’d do? Might be a chance to address those niggling issues. At least it will keep the agency on its toes.

And so we enter the no-man’s land of the re-pitch. Some would say that at this point, the incumbent agency has lost, so best to cut your losses and move on. Others, that you have to fight your corner, hammer home the achievements to date and show there’s plenty of gas in the tank. So what’s best? Should agencies jump the hoop or find someone who appreciates their efforts? If they do, will they win? Should PR agencies agree to re-pitch, or is this just a polite way of saying goodbye?

[For those reading this via a newsreader, there is an AJAX-based poll pasted below which may not appear in this post via RSS. Please vote on the site – thanks].

  • H. C.

    I’d say it would highly depend upon the circumstances of the agency/client relationship and the current situation (e.g. satisfaction with relationship & work, whether the agency even want to keep the client, etc.), but I would lean towards a ‘yes’. For one, I think that the whole notion of a re-pitch really does get some creative juices flowing (which may have slowed or stopped doing the day-to-day stuff of an already-“won” client), and I think it helps establishes the agency’s reputation as one that will give it their all and won’t back down, even if it means doing a re-pitch.
    Of course, the downside would be the possibility of need a bigger development/creative department [which I think for agency purposes are more of an expense, while they may win contracts, they are usually not the ones with billable hours]… if all clients are demanding re-pitches, I’d imagine to be quite difficult for the usually-small creative team to be able to handle that AND new business pitches and not suffer burnout.

  • Totally depends. We’ve re-pitched and WON, and things have gone great. We’ve re-pitched and WON – and it sucked all over again.
    Re-pitch if you like the account and WANT a second chance. Re-pitch if you can do better a 2nd time.
    NEVER do it just for the revenue.

  • http://helzerman.com/wp/?p=589

    Having done time at an agency, this post makes me cringe because I know where hes coming from.  Excellent post from Morgan today,
    Its an account directors worst nightmare. The client calls and tells him that she&#821…

  • HC – good comment. Some agencies do experiment with a central ‘creative team’. It’s a tricky model since necessarily you want all team members to generate ideas, and those closest to the campaign should be in a position to come up with the sharpest and most relevant. Creative teams are more often found in ad agency models, but it does help to bring in a new set of brains who are not as close to the program for a fresh perspective.
    There is an opportunity cost of repitches – which is something to factor in when deciding on the go/no go.
    Todd – thanks. I agree with this. The real issue if you want to retain the client, is assessing whether you do indeed stand a fighting chance of doing just that. Some clients feel bad about resigning the agency and the repitch is their way of indicating an underlying but unspoken dissatisfaction. It’s demoralizing for teams to jump the repitch hoop and still get canned.
    In larger firms there is sometimes a purchasing policy to retender all suppliers every two or three years. I think the situation here is entirely different – it’s well worth pursuing these repitches since the decision to repitch was beyond the client’s control.