This is not the time to be chasing new accounts with no margin

It's August, it's been sunny on at least two days in the last week and the media world is strangely empty.

Tess Alps is chief executive of Thinkbox
Tess Alps is chief executive of Thinkbox

Now's the chance to do all those investigative things one never has time for normally, you might think - read those new marketing books, try TV online, join Twitter and such like.

But not for some, it seems. One major media agency is currently working on six - yes, six - pitches, all due to happen within a couple of weeks, and they are not alone.

The recession has prompted many marketers to revise their media arrangements, often to squeeze more money out of their suppliers, but in some instances also to save themselves time and duplication.

What is a media agency to do in this situation? They say that if three balls are thrown at you, it's most likely you'll drop all of them.

So the danger for agencies is that, by accepting to pitch for everything that comes their way, their resource will be spread too thinly and none of the pitches will match up to their competition.

But it's a brave agency who would turn down the chance to pitch. With incomes down - albeit not as dramatically as media spends - few holding companies would be impressed to find one of their media agencies walking away from any potential new business.

And in some instances, agencies are repitching for existing accounts or pitching for a bigger slice from an existing client where failure to win turns into a loss.

When I was at PHD, we always used to say that an account had to fulfil at least one of three criteria, and ideally more.
Does the account make a profit, does it enable you to do stand-out work that will lead to more business and does the team get satisfaction from the work, either because of its social/cultural importance or just because the clients are great to work with?

When agencies are facing a swathe of pitches, all of which they feel they must undertake, placing them in order of priority will ensure resources - time, money, effort, ideas - are apportioned appropriately.

But this is not the time to be chasing any potential new account that doesn't offer a margin. Time spent pitching is inevitably at the expense of existing business.

And with business so mobile and promiscuous at the moment, birds in the hand are worth extra TLC.

I hope I haven't depressed anyone about to pitch. Good luck.

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