Tag Archives: London

A question of chemistry.

As the fight for London between Ken and Boris, and the other chap, reaches its final round, with opinion polls telling us how we will vote, it’s timely to reflect on what will, really, be influencing our decision.

Will Ken get my vote because I admire much of what he has done to make London a better place to live in and that he is clearly a consumate politician when it comes to getting more out of the public purse for London? Or because I met him once , on the underground, where he kindly gave me directions to the right platform?

Will Boris get it because some of his ideas make sense despite his lack of practical experience, or because he gets rid of bendy busses or because he will do more for grass root sport, something I feel strongly about? Or because I warm to his off-the wall sense of humour?

The truth, of course, is that, whilst I like to think my rational self will weigh up the arguments and inform the decision, my instinctive feelings for them as people will play their part. It’s a question of chemistry.

Over the last few years ‘chemistry meetings’ have become an increasingly accepted part of the pitch process. Seemingly an innocuous get together ,with no set agenda, these meetings can be more critical to the decision than a final presentation. They should ,therefore, be given the same level of energy and preparation.

Some ideas on how to do this, Chemistry Lessons, are under Best Practice Guides.

It can be tough as the incumbent.

In most pitches, and this is highlighted by what is happening in London, the competitors fall into two , attitudinally, very different groups.  The incumbent who has every thing to lose and the challengers with everything to gain.

In business,  reviews leading to a pitch are either down to a statutory review or, particularly in the service sector, a failure in the relationship. This may be rationalised  on performance grounds, or change of people on either side, but in reality  it will be a  staleness, a loss of energy in the way the two sides get on.

In this scenario the incumbent has a tough task on its hands. In the ad agency world it is estimated that  only 5% retain in the repitch.  So if change is in the air what is the best response?  There are ,I believe,  three main approaches to consider.

The first is to beat the client to the punch, recognise changes are needed and initiate a review/re-eavaluation , non competitive,  perhaps with an impartial intermediary.  The second is to resign the business, declining to repitch, always a tough call  but one which can reduce the emotional and actual impact of a losing situation.  Finally there is the option to fight on , probably with new blood in the established team.

In the early nineties, Saatchi  faced a difficult pitch to retain British Airways, against newly formed M&C Saatchi known to have stong relationship with CEO Sir Colin Marshall. Despite misgivings, massive effort, emotional and physical, went into the pitch. To no avail, Marshall did not bother to turn up  for half of the presentation, the account moved.  The negative impact of the wasted effort was in many respects greater than the loss of the business.

Ken, of course, faces a statutory review, but he is the one with everything to lose, attitudinally the tougher place to be.