In the latest Oystercatchers Club evening, we saw marketers and agencies exchange frank views on what, in their eyes, made for the perfect pitch – one of the key catalysts behind business transformation.

Hosted at London’s May Fair hotel by Peter Cowie and Suki Thompson, senior business leaders and agency chiefs shared very personal experiences, while our live interactive poll revealed much about what industry influencers are thinking.

Joining us on the panel were:

Team Client: Philipp Schuster (Director Marketing Procurement, Adidas), Will Abbott (Marketing Director, Hiscox), Chris MacLeod (Marketing Director, TfL), Rebecca White (Head of Marketing & Brand, Heathrow), Rob Lawrence (Consultant, Bowers & Wilkins), Andrew Cocker (Senior Marketing Director, Expedia), Hamish Rickman (VP Marketing, Virgin Atlantic), Jonathan Harman (Managing Director, Royal Mail), John Allert (Group Brand Director, McLaren), Dominic Rowell (Commercial Director, Vue Entertainment), Daryl Fielding (Consultant).

Team Agency: Ian Millner (Co-Founder & Chief Executive, Iris), Fenella Grey (Managing Director, Porter Novelli), Helen McRae (CEO, Mindshare), Leigh Thomas (CEO, Dare), Neil Simpson (Founding Partner, The Corner London), Scott Wilson (UK CEO & MD, Cohn & Wolfe), Jason Gonsalves (CEO, McGarry Bowen), Jono Goodman (Managing Director, LIDA), Jem Lloyd-Williams (Managing Director, Vizeum), Tom Laranjo (Managing Director, Total Media)

Four themes emerging from the evening

The decision to pitch is not taken lightly – by either side.  Agencies and clients covet marriage – not a one night stand. Long standing relationships will often trump a quick fix. Reasons to go to pitch, according to marketers include: a need for supplementary/new skills; company restructure/ commercial pressure; a step change for something transformative to outperform the competition and a fresh approach to achieve that

The golden thread is trust, honesty and transparency. Clarity on business performance, genuine concerns, and, budget. The pitch, it was agreed, is essentially two groups of people coming together to solve a problem. Great creative emerges from partnership problem- solving – not in isolation.

Team wins over the creative. Interestingly – when faced with a decision between great team and great work – the former often wins through. Brand owners want to see teams working together, the real thinkers and people at the coalface, rather than heavy-hitters. A true indicator of partnership for both agency and client: the reaction to criticism.

Successful teams get under the skin of the business – with deep-rooted, intuitive empathy for the customer.

Our interactive poll revealed that:

  • The audience overwhelmingly agreed that the CMO is the final pitch decision maker
  • The best way of embedding a new agency is via workshops with a wider team and other roster agencies, and of course, just getting on with it!
  • In the next five years agencies will change towards client/agency workshops and extended chemistry meetings – with small agile agencies winning a significant share
  • Eighty-nine percent of the audience believed that pitches should be live rather than theoretical

Peter Cowie, with over 3,000 pitch meetings under his belt, closed the evening with his Top Pitch Tip: Happy teams are winning teams. “You can smell happiness as soon as you step into the room”.

Our huge thanks to our panellists for serving such candid thoughts and making last ngith such a success:[insert list]

To read more about the evening, please dip into Campaign’s review, The Drums Review  or Marketing Weeks Review of the Club event.

Our next Club event takes place on 13th September where we’ll explore Modern Marketing Partnerships. Please contact Sam at if you’d like to join us.