Win-win or win-lose? Our take on 'free pitching'



A client may sometimes ask an agency to respond to a creative brief as part of the pitch process. This is a strange situation in many ways as they are asking for free creative work up front, and, in most cases with no definitive budget allocation.



We don't think free pitching is the best way to choose a design firm. The process forces the agency to make significant guesses throughout the briefing or tender specifications and it can eliminate real collaboration. It trades a likelihood of a positive outcome for a far greater number of lower likelihoods.


In many ways we feel this devalues the industry's offering. We should be able to win formal pitches based on the quality of work we have provided for similar clients. A strong written proposal outlining our approach, credentials and case studies is fine but committing resource to produce free visuals based on a speculative approach will not achieve the same successful outcome.


The thinking that brings value to the creative process is not something that is easily delivered in a free pitch. Getting to it requires an investment on the part of the client, and a willingness to let the agency lead the process.


If agencies do agree to work on a free pitch, then there should be an agency rejection fee to cover a small portion of the work - and demonstrate commitment from the client.


As an agency, we have a strict pitch criteria assessing the ratio of potential financial gain versus the work invested up front, how many agencies have been included and what the scoring mechanics look like. This ratio can sometimes work if pitching for an annual retainer account, but unfortunately not on a smaller 'per project' basis.


Is there another industry that has to complete the work as part of the tender process?

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