Creative leaders on free pitching

It’s one of the most contentious practices in the creative industries, yet is still widely accepted as the norm. Malcolm Garrett, Creature’s Stu Outhwaite-Noel and ustwo Design Director Helen Fuchs pitch in on the pitching debate

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Recently CR ran an extract from Paul Woods’ book How to do Great Work without Being an Asshole, looking at an age old dilemma for creative businesses: to pitch, or not to pitch? The piece received a huge response from our readers, so we decided to explore the issue further by talking to ustwo’s Helen Fuchs, Creature CCO Stu Outhwaite-Noel and designer Malcolm Garrett about their experience of free pitching, and whether it’s ever a good idea.

Helen Fuchs, Design Director at ustwo

Creative Review: What is your experience of free pitching during your career?
Helen Fuchs: It’s been a constant in any agency I’ve been in. 99% of the time it’s a request to pitch for free, with multiple steps in the process. The pressure mounts, the expectations get higher and higher and it culminates in an epic show for an hour or two. At previous agencies I’ve seen some huge feats of showmanship, but have often been left questioning if clients really get what they need through the process. The big network agencies are set up to work well within a long pitch process, but for smaller agencies it can be a huge commitment to throw your hat into the ring.

CR: What is your attitude towards the practice, and has this changed over time?
HF: On a personal level I’ve always loved pitching. It’s an opportunity to bring a team together at speed and show what you are made of; capability wise, creatively, as people and as storytellers. But as a process it feels woefully outdated, born from big advertising pitches where ideas that were pitched went live. When it comes to pitching in a product, service or innovation studio, presenting a solution without being true to the process you are advocating for feels like madness. It’s much more important to take time to understand each other’s ways of working, values and experience than present a beauty parade of solutions.

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