Published: Monday 21st October 2013

Does the order in which an agency presents have a significant effect on their success or failure in a pitch?
Most agencies don’t give it a second thought:
“It’s client-determined – their prerogative”.
“The luck of the draw”.

However, a small percentage of agencies think it is very important. They are almost superstitious about it.

So, is there any logical reason why going 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. would matter?

We don’t have access to enough pitch data to be able to conclusively prove an advantage or disadvantage either way. One of the intermediaries might have done the analysis, but would only create problems for themselves if they were to tell everyone, as agencies tried to manage themselves into the more favourable positions.

However, we can identify some potential positional advantages:
Going First & Last
Psychologists would recommend going first, as this distinguishes us from previous activities as important and may be transferred to long-term memory by the time of recall. However, they would also say that if you go last then your presentation is still in short-term memory at the time of recall!

What else do we need to consider?

1. Going First (Primacy Effect)
Whilst being first gives an Agency a chance to set the standard and be first to say things that other agencies will appear to repeat in subsequent presentations, it also carries the potential burden of other ‘firsts’ from a client perspective.
– The first time they have reviewed the brief properly
– The first time they have all met each other
– The first time they have spent any significant time collectively thinking through the brief.
It can take up valuable time and effort to ease client pitch teams into their pitch process.

2. Going Last (Recency Effect)
As well as having more time than everyone else (yes – even a few hours in these final moments matter), we know that we are presenting to a well – informed audience.
– They know the brief by now and we can show understanding by acknowledging this in editing our content accordingly
– They will have thought a lot about the brief and how it would best be answered
– They ask informed questions that often highlight issues they still have unresolved from preceding pitches…or things that the other agencies have raised that they think are of importance

It would appear that going last may have the most advantage for a new agency. Does this change, however, if you are the incumbent?

At the very least, an agency should be aware of its position in the running order and how this will relate to the other pitch presentations it is to be compared to. There is advantage to be had in context.

Nevertheless, we all know from our pitch experience that there are likely to be other variables that determine the outcome of pitches. Some of these are in our control and some are not. In a world where small margins make a difference, we should work hard to optimise our final presentations, in terms of both structure and content, to nudge the probabilities in our favour.

We still have some places available on our Pitch Leadership Skills Day on 21st November where you will gain a clear understanding of the factors that an agency can control to win pitches. You will also have the opportunity to hear from RADA on the importance of first impressions in pitching and how you can work them to your advantage.

If you would like to book a place please email or book online


Mark Clark – 21st October 2013