Creative Pitches – how to get the most out of design agencies

By Kate Clayton
By Kate Clayton
As you can imagine, in 25 years of business, we’ve been involved in a lot of creative pitches! No two are ever the same, but we have certainly learnt a lot about how to help clients get the best results.

Choosing the right design agency is a crucial part of the creative process and so here we offer 3 key points that we’ve found can make a real difference in getting the most out of pitching agencies – and ultimately enable you, the client, to make the best choice of agency to work with.


Develop a pitch-specific brief

An important part of the design process is ‘immersion’ – really getting to know clients, their products, the market and competition. This is what enables the creation of really well thought through, on-brand initial concepts.

In a pitch situation, this level of immersion is rarely possible, and it can be quite a challenge to design accurately without this knowledge – especially if the designs are for a ‘live’ project.

We have pitched in this way many times – some we have won and some we haven’t – but whoever wins, very rarely are the winning pitch designs actually used for the live project. Because the nature of the pitch situation means the designs cannot be as well-thought through as in a ‘normal’ project.

A pitch-specific brief that is slightly removed from a live project will enable a fair pitch for all the agencies involved to showcase their understanding of the brief, design processes and creativity. It can be on a much smaller scale and therefore be a simpler project for clients to manage – removing the pressures of trying to create those all-important first stage designs for a big project.

A great example of this recently was a client of ours who traditionally pitched using the main brief for their large seasonal range. This was a very involved, highly time-consuming process for both client and agencies. It also required a highly in-depth knowledge of their business and brands, so the incumbent agencies arguably had a head start against any new agencies pitching. For their most recent pitch they decided to use just one part of the brief – a stocking filler gift which was a stand-alone pack that could ‘break the brand rules’ so to speak. This put all the agencies on a level playing field and was a much less ‘involved’ project so client and agency could enjoy the creativity! But the essence of the project still gave the client all the information they needed to choose the right agency.


Don’t underestimate the power of chemistry

There will always be a number of factors clients want to establish from a creative pitch, but chemistry is one that is often overlooked. The most successful design projects are a partnership between client and agency, and the reality is that for this to work, everyone needs to get on!

Ideally there is an initial Credentials presentation where client and agency can meet and chat openly about the project – which enables chemistry to be determined. Of course, this isn’t always possible and so the time allowed on Pitch Day should include enough time for this to be gauged.

A few years ago we won a project through a creative pitch where the pitch was run by a mediating agency and so we didn’t actually meet the client team until we started the project! Luckily, we all worked well together, and the project ran smoothly, but the impact that bad chemistry could have on a project is significant, and so not considering it is a big risk to take when committing to any scale of work.


Allow enough time

We love creative pitches for the opportunity to work on something new and exciting, but the reality of business is that we also have existing client work. Of course we want to pull out all the stops to impress for a pitch, but this must be done without compromising any live projects.

The value of what happens after the pitch – i.e. becoming ‘a client’ is a consideration that rarely forms part of the pitch process, but no client wants to think their live projects might be compromised for the thrill of an exciting new business opportunity – which is why we have actually turned down creative pitch opportunities that don’t allow enough time to balance a considered creative response with our existing client projects.

The best agencies are invariably the busiest ones, and so allowing sufficient time for creative pitches to be done in amongst existing workloads ensures that you aren’t missing out on opportunities to work with the best agencies just because there wasn’t enough time allowed to deliver properly against the brief.


These are just a few of our own observations from many years in the business. For more detailed information on pitching we would recommend the Design Business Association (of which we are a member) which is a great resource for best practise. With in-depth information and templates for briefing, scoring and pitch feedback.