Candidates Do It, Athletes Do It; Why Don't We?

Perhaps We Should Compete Face-to-Face in Pitches

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Millie Olson Millie Olson
For the past several weeks I've been consumed by a seemingly endless new-business pitch and an equally endless series of presidential primary debates.

I learned a great deal about the presidential candidates, but had to guess where we stood via our competitors. So I wondered, is ours the only business where people compete without ever seeing what their competition does? Maybe that's yet another reason the pitch process is so broken.

All we really have is a competitor's website and whatever we can glean from the occasional former employee or agency-hopping freelancer. We're generally not even supposed to know who our competitors are, which keeps us from making smart decisions like not throwing ourselves into the fray against some gigantic holding company with a gazillion years of category experience. While we almost always figure it out eventually, it's often via low-grade espionage. Like a furtive glimpse over a printer's shoulder, which recently revealed that those hand-stitched, one-of-a-kind "brand books" we were making were also being made by THEM.

It's kind of like sex. You imagine, but can't really know what other people do behind closed doors. So who knows if what you're doing is cool or weird or completely banal.

What if we borrowed from presidential politics or professional sports and insisted that competing for accounts be open and transparent? That we see our competitors' presentations, written and spoken? We might even have debates...

On the left, Amazon Advertising. On the right, Arch-competitor.

Amazon, you won the toss and elected to go first.

With economists predicting a recession this year, how will you meet the challenge of growing our brand?

On your website you come out against negative advertising. You say advertising should be beautiful, witty or wise. Yet isn't it undeniable that going negative works?

You're known for great copywriting and elegant art direction. What do you say to your opponent's charge that you're about rhetoric and they're about results?

You get the idea.

In closing, each agency would have two minutes to summarize why it's the best choice.

That's it. No wondering whether the other guys went out and spent a gazillion dollars on a brand video or promised to work for nothing for the first year. Just an open competition on an even playing field.

By the way, in case my grousing about the pitch process sounds like sour grapes, we won that last one. It was glorious. And I still think the current process sucks.
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