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Free pitching.

If you ask a design agency to pitch creative ideas for free, are you approaching the project in the right way and are you going to get the best agency work back?

To free pitch or not, is something each design agency needs to decide based on the return for their initial creative investment.

If the win for the agency is a continued relationship and more paid work with a client over a bigger portfolio of products, then obviously the initial free pitch may be well worth it. The same may not be true, however, for a free pitch on a ‘one-off’ project.

Below are some of the key points that you need to consider before asking your agency to pitch for free…

1. You may not end up with the best agency fit for your project.

Free pitching creative work is part and parcel of the big budget advertising world. However, in this arena budgets are huge and investment of studio time can see rewards in excess of 20 times the initial investment of agency time. There is a huge incentive for agencies to throw their top talent against this free pitch.

Outside this world of ‘super-massive’ budgets, lets take branding and packaging design, agencies are asked to pitch for potential projects with much lower budgets.

The advantage to the client is free creative work, however, if this work is also based around defining a new brand positioning, then a sizeable piece of work needs to be undertaken by the agency well in advance of producing any actual creative or realised ideas.

The fact is, that the best agency to work on your project may ultimately not want to, as they do not want to give ideas away for free.

2. You may not get the best people working on it.

In some design studios, the work on a free pitch often tends to be squeezed in around paying projects and not given as much time as a paid project.

The other factor to look at, is that you may not get the core team on a project, only whoever is available at that point to work on it. Especially if there is a tight deadline and the right people are tied up on paid work.

So realistically, are you getting the full set of deliverables and design breadth of thinking that you would normally get from a paid first creative stage?

3. You will not own the IP of the work.

If you don’t pay for the creative work then put simply, you don’t own what is presented. The IP is retained by the agency that created the work.

We were recently in a situation where we presented work on a paid pitch. We won the pitch and one of the other ideas that we presented was saved for a project further down the line. From the clients point of view that’s a win-win they own everything that was presented including an additional design for a future rollout.

Introducing a pitch fee is one way round this. Therefore, the agency gets paid a reasonable rate for the work that they have produced and the client maintains intellectual property of everything presented at that stage.

So how should you choose an agency?

We always encourage clients to select agencies based on the three C’s: ChemistryCase studies and Credentials.

Let’s start with Chemistry. A quick phone call for a chat or an online meeting is a great way to dig around and find out – Do I want to work with these people? Don’t forget, that question works both ways!

Secondly, Case studies. The reason that you are talking to the agency in the first place is that you have seen their work and concluded that they are able to do a great job based on previous examples.

Ask yourself, do they need to prove to me that they can do an equally good job on my snack brand, or does the wealth of experience shown in their case studies and design thinking give me enough confidence?

Lastly are agency Credentials. Don’t forget, an agency is also a brand. They have to differentiate themselves and explain why they stand out from the competition and why they are right for you.

Here in the UK, we have a fantastically talented design industry. We are lucky to attract the interest of clients from all over the world. So it’s not just about design ability in an industry filled with talented individuals. Ask your agency what makes them special? What makes them stand out from the crowd? What makes them different?

You can see some of our work here.

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