James MurphyJames Murphy: Adam and Eve have been in business for four years and Oystercatchers have played quite a pivotal role in that time.  We’ve done several of our most major pitches with Oystercatchers, Save the Children and Youview to name just a couple of them.  What I think is interesting about the way that Oystercatchers work that works for us is that when we pitch, the pitches we always feel most comfortable on and most excited about, are the ones where there’s a good dialogue between the agencies pitching, the client setting the brief and actually with the consultant and that as circumstances change, the consultant are able to keep you updated and Oystercatchers have always been very good at that and that can manifest itself in a couple of different ways.  First of all Oystercatchers are very good if it looks like you’re going a bit off-piste (if I can put it that way) then they will bring you back on being.  The other thing that can sometimes happen in pitches, particularly for clients in very fast moving and competitive markets is something changes part way through the pitch out in the real world that almost impacts on the client’s brief and Oystercatchers are always very good at just intervening at that point, bringing everyone up to date and saying “look we need to slightly recalibrate things” and that means that you’re all on a level playing field and you’re all moving from the same information so then it’s up to you and your skills and expertise to win the pitch.

James Murphy: The other thing I’ve noticed with pitching with Oystercatchers is that the pitches are exciting, they have drama and adrenaline and pace.  Save the Children was a good example of that, where this is a big organisation, it’s a very important organisation and we have to bring a lot of stakeholders with us on the pitch and indeed on the final pitch meeting we were pitching to a room full of people all the way up to their chairman and some of their trustees and it felt like a good pitch, what was fascinating was I think that everyone in that room felt that way so as we came to the end of the pitch we were actually asked to leave the room and then dragged back in five minutes later when we were awarded the business on the spot, which was a great way to win and a great way to start a relationship that’s proved to be very successful subsequently.

James Murphy: YouView was an exhilarating pitch because there were many stakeholders involved, this is a business where effectively the brief is about the future of television and the stakeholders are, well they’re literally shareholders in the business it’s the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Talktalk, British Telecom, so it’s quite a combustible collection of stakeholders and put alongside that a very gifted and talented marketing team and you’ve got quite an exciting pitch on your hands, but you have to bring a lot of people with you at the same time.  What I think was interesting was that Oystercatchers were able to make sure the agencies that I think were very cognisant of the number of stakeholders and what the different agendas might be, and also because the situation was changing all of the time as it was a technological product, make sure the agencies were thoroughly up to speed with what was going to be the final product offer and this meant that even in the final throws of the pitch where it got quite intense in terms of some of the toing and froing between clients and agencies and stakeholders, I think under quite pressurised circumstances, Oystercatchers kept that pitch running on rails through to a very clear conclusion.

James Murphy: What’s pronounced about working with Oystercatchers is a level of personal service where certainly we feel that we’ve been stewarded through pitches in a way that whilst entirely appropriate, it actually means that agencies (as paranoid organisations) sometimes need to vent their worries and share their worries during pitches, and actually I’ve been able to do that with working with Oystercatchers and you get told “look don’t worry about that you’re talking nonsense!” or “no, that’s a valid point let’s try and flush that out with the client and get clear on that” and that helps because sometimes the pitching process can be very disorientating for agencies and it can be a vacuum.  You get given a brief and literally just told to come back in 4 weeks and, as creative organisations, your minds can wander all over the place in 4 weeks.  So, what’s good about it is I think this thing of stewardship and being closely managed, not over managed, but in a way that makes sure there is a powerful and a clear result for a pitch.

James Murphy: I don’t think I could recommend highly enough having an intermediary running a pitch because when you’re on the receiving end of a brief (as agencies are) you really notice the difference.  As I said, pitches are often a bit of a moving target and you need someone to keep control of the process and so having an intermediary is very important.  I think where Oystercatchers really add value is in the way that any good pitch consultant should which is really being able to ensure that there is a clear and focused brief (which is the most important thing), then making sure that both agencies and clients are sticking to that brief, or if the brief has to change that everyone knows and that there is, as far as possible, that kind of perfect information leading to perfect competition on the pitch.

James Murphy: The way we work most effectively with our clients is, it’s a cliché but we say about being in the trenches with them, really in the muck and bullets.  I think that’s why we have quite a lot of fast moving and dynamic clients, quite a few clients in the retail part of the market but these are people who actually have a lot of things happening to them day to day in terms of what their competitors are doing, what their organisations are doing around them.  They need the agency people to be right in there with them, reacting to changing circumstances, trying to be front-footed about some of them sometimes and also just having a very, sometimes a brutally honest relationship where you’re creating ideas and campaigns together that really work.  I can point to massive effectiveness on John Lewis, Fosters, Phones4U, those kinds of things, and those are all relationships that are characterized by a level of brutal honesty where people are going “that’s the answer, that’s not the answer, let’s go for that one”!

James Murphy: I think one of the key challenges facing the industry over the next few years is actually ‘reintegration’ if I can put it that way.  The last decade, 15 years, has been marked by agencies becoming more and more specialised.  Actually there’s a great deal of conversions going on now, and I think certainly for our part, probably 40% of our work now is digital, probably the lion’s share of that digital work is pure play digital clients and that’s going alongside classic brand strategy, marketing strategy, advertising and it’s actually being able to build an agency, particularly when you’re fairly small like we are, where you have all the skills that you need in one place for clients that increasingly want you to work across the entire spectrum of what they’re looking for.  I think that’s it – it’s almost a logistical challenge.