Lee Fenton_COO_GamseysLee Fenton: I recently ran a pitch with Oystercatchers.  In terms of what Oystercatchers did to help…well firstly I should probably say at the outset I was a sceptic.  Did we really need somebody else inside the business to do it? Can anybody help really who doesn’t know about our business? We believe nobody knows our business as well as we do.  I think the reason that we got ourselves there in the end was one through some personal connections with Oystercatchers.  I certainly felt it came at a time for us where we were incredibly busy, we had a lot of other things on, and a pitch that we ran previously, a year earlier, had really absorbed a tremendous amount of the team’s time for a good three months.  We couldn’t afford that this time around.  We also wanted to look for a slightly different type of agency and that’s why we employed the help of Oystercatchers.

Lee Fenton: The agency briefing was interesting.  I always think that the whole agency pitch process is a bit bizarre.  It’s speed dating, and speed dating perhaps one of the most partners that you might engage with in business.  We’ve always felt PowerPoint, two hours in a room, getting to know people through that route is never going to work.  So we decided to do something different.  It felt a little bit like the X-factor when we were going through the whole process so admittedly we were drunk down the pub, thinking about how we could do the pitch differently.  We decided that, it’s the X-factor, let’s do judges houses! So bizarrely, but true, we took Oystercatchers and four of the shortlisted agencies on a plane out to Tenerife.  We did the pitch with cliffs in the background and raging seas coming in.  I pulled my trousers up very high and we delivered the pitch.  It wasn’t just to take them to Tenerife and endure a four hour flight on a scheduled airline for that period of time, it was also we happened to have 25 of our customers out there on a holiday that they’d won through the site and so it fulfilled two ambitions for us really which were key for any agency selection.  The first was to know the customer, really try and get to understand the customer and believe me; they got to understand the customer during the course of that evening! The second was to get to know us – incredibly important.  We’re going to be working with all of the people in the chosen agency going forward tremendously closely over time, and you just can’t get that through three scheduled meetings in somewhat sterile environments.  So we felt that we needed to get out there with them.  We always take the view that you don’t know anyone until you’ve played bingo with them!

Lee Fenton: The most surprising thing that Oystercatchers did for us in the pitch…I’d say it was the never ending commitment to remind us of our own contradictions.  In terms of things that we weren’t expecting that we actually got from Oystercatchers that came into the pitch, the main thing probably was that element of impartiality.  I had a team of people involved in pitch on my side, probably about six strong through from head of the brand, through to the guys that manage our marketing and acquisition side.  We are very close up to this all day long, day in day out, so that was a real benefit for us was just to actually have someone step outside, actually one replay some of things and some of the dynamics that we did inside of the pitch process that maybe don’t make it as healthier process as it could be.  Make sure that we got those right, but they also gave us a real impartial take on strengths and weaknesses of agencies as we went through.  And probably lastly I’d say, a little bit of technical competence I guess in terms of what can we ask of agencies? What’s the right thing to ask of agencies? How can we actually push for more and look for more in the relationship out the other side and I think making sure we’re asking the right questions at the pitch has been critical to us in ensuring that we have the right partner going forward.

Lee Fenton: How do we make good agency relationships work over a long period of time? There are a number of answers for that.  I think empathy; they desperately need to empathise about the situation that we’re in, the work circumstance.  They need to understand our culture probably first and foremost.  I think we also need to understand there’s.  We need to understand the environment they’re working in, what we’re asking of them, ensuring that we are clear.  Not the fact that people say do you speak with one voice or do you speak, you know…we don’t and we never properly will.  But making sure that we’re available, that we’re in constant communication and that we can iterate, iterate, iterate, because that’s the way that I think we’ll build successful partnerships.

Lee Fenton: Was there anything that Oystercatchers were really useless at?? That’s a brave question! Yes there was.  Angus was the guy who guided us I guess, some might use a different word!  But Angus guided us through the process.  What was he useless at? He was useless at dancing, quite definitely.  And actually quite useless at drinking.  If he could get the drinking right, the dancing might come!

Lee Fenton: I guess if there was something that would keep me awake at night it would be really about are we communicating enough? I’m a true believer that inside and outside of organisations, about 70% of issues channel back to comms and if we can communicate, keep communicating, keep those lines open then I think you get through it.  The other thing that keeps me awake is this unbelievable chocolate tequila drink that someone has just introduced me to.  I didn’t realise that if you have four of them you actually do stay awake all night!