The real cost of pitching – and is it always necessary?

Creating relationships with new clients and customers may be the recipe for business success, but most creative agencies today are finding it hard to maintain ties that last even five years. With most marriages lasting longer – at eight years on average – this begs the question about how long-term relationships can be improved and nurtured in the industry.
TBWASA CEO Luca Gallarelli is the right person to ask – his agency collective and retailer Spar recently celebrated a rare golden anniversary when cementing a 50-year partnership.

“I believe maintaining a strong client-agency partnership boils down to three main ingredients: Trust. Care. Ongoing value contribution. Naturally, trust is foundational, but it compounds over time like any relationship. It is essential to work from the position that both parties want to succeed and have an active role to play,” says Gallarelli.
Research in the Agency Scope 2021/2022 South Africa study tells us that the average length of a client/agency relationship is 4.3 yearsfor a creative agency, and 4.5 yearsfor a media agency. This meansthat there are relationshipsthat are longer than that and many that are shorter – but South Africa is in line with the global average for these relationships. MD of TBWAHuntLascarisin KZN and lead on the Spar account, Wimpie le Roux, says these poor industry statistics serve to highlight the need for a mindset shift across the industry.

“A short-term switch after, say, a three-year retainer very often means wasted time on onboarding a new agency, immersing them in the values and culture, and ensuring the business is fit-for-purpose in the fast-paced digital age – never mind the extensive costs associated with the initial pitch. Spar has shown this need not be the case.
“What makes our relationship with Spar different is that we provide the business with a window into the broader South African market, consumer behaviour and opportunities on the horizon. Like many other businesses, their focus and priorities are often inward focused. But we keep an objective eye on the market, and on the levers that we, and Spar, can pull to remain relevant and resonant with customers,” says Le Roux.

Spar’s group marketing executive, Mike Prentice, echoes this by saying that working with a genuinely vested agency partner helps drive success and growth. “Due to the tenure and understanding, the agency has been instrumental in bringing many innovations to market – TOPS and Build It as stand-alone business propositions are two good examples. To unlock this value at scale and with long-term sustainable business impact is likely to be difficult in a three-year cycle.”

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Author: TBWA

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