I just wrapped up a new business pitch and was reminded once again of how different pitch life is from regular advertising life. Here's a few things to expect when you're called upon to pitch new business.
1) Hours = crazy. Very crazy. If work hours were normally like this, I don't think I'd be able to do it. But with a pitch, you have a date that you're working toward. There's always an end in sight. So it's easier to dedicate everything you've got to it.
2) Team dynamic. It will get stressful, people will get pissed at each other and feelings will be hurt, but a team that works well together realizes these bumps are part of the process, quickly pushes through them and gets it done nonetheless.
3) Range of ideas. An agency is much more likely to take in a slightly wider range of ideas to a pitch than they might for a current client. They'll blow everything out into every medium, even if the client hasn't asked for it. This is because it's pretty common for a client to pick an agency based on its thinking rather than a specific campaign. So showing a breadth of thinking is sometimes more important than getting the campaign exactly right.
4) Level of finish. While agencies might present with rough marker comps and a mood board to an existing client, pitch work will be executed as if it were going into a portfolio. Storyboards will be tight, professional illustrations or photo comps, or even an edited video. Print should look almost ready for press. This all takes a lot of time, and the craft becomes very important.
5) Pitch theater. Each agency has its own style, but it's always very intentional. From being as choreographed and rehearsed as a stage production to simply putting a really smart person in front of the client and letting him or her present from a booklet, how the work is presented is often as important as what is presented. What will the room look like? Will work be on boards or on a screen? How will the work be brought to life? What will the leave-behind look like?
6) The winner. An enormous amount of time, money and energy is spent pitching new business, and only one agency will have anything to show for it. This can be a morale killer for the losing agencies. The thing to remember is that clients select agencies for all kinds of reasons. It might be the work, it might be the chemistry with the team or the strategic thinking. It might be the name of the agency, or the name of one of its leaders. Or, as happens often, one of the people at one of the agencies might already have a relationship with the client, giving them a leg up. All you can do it put your best foot forward, work your ass off and hope for the best.