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A new low in pitch abuse, now agencies are having to pay clients to get on a pitch list

The marketing industry in India has been shocked by a major group brand demanding that agencies (media agencies in this case) pay to get on the pitch list.

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This must be a new low in pitch abuse of agencies and as unethical as a client can get.

Whatever way you look at it, it is a form of bribery. Why don’t they just ask for a brown envelope full of dollars from agencies instead? I won’t mention the brand because it’s just their India office that is practising this abuse.

However, if they get away with it, The Advertising Agencies Association of India have advised agencies to walk away, this could open the door to a dangerous situation. Especially if big agency groups break rank and decide to pay the bribe, sorry, pitch fee. This could force medium and small agencies out.

The equally worrying factor is that it’s seems less about finding the right agency partner than getting a cheap one. Guess that’s what happens when you let an accountant run your marketing department. I have championed for years that clients should contribute to the cost of pitches, especially when they put so many on a list – over 30 in one case.

There’s no argument that they get a lot of insight from pitches, thousands of pounds worth, yet we are the mugs who have to pay anything from £15k upward for the pleasure of attending a beauty parade. There are no lack of stories of abuse, lies and even corruption associated with pitches. Not to mention politics.

For years some of us have been trying to get the trade bodies to change things but nothing has happened. It’s too political. So I’m writing to Cameron and Clegg to ask them to look at legislation to prevent this kind of corruption. Because if one person starts it then it’ll spread to other industries and the long term damage will be great, especially to small businesses and most agencies are SMEs.

Agencies have to dish out enough to win new business, and let us not forget that clients need the skills of agencies to sell their brand and products or else they would do it themselves.

So just because you hold the budget shouldn’t give you a right to abuse other businesses. This approach shows the true ethical colours of a company. Call me principled, but I believe fair trade should apply to all, not just to Third World farmers.

This piece was originally posted to Chris Arnold's blog: Arnold on Ethical Marketing

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