Home > PITCHING, TIPS > How To Lose A Pitch

How To Lose A Pitch


I’ll do a post one day with advice on how to pitch successfully (advice on how to work within a team, how to structure a meeting, the importance of reception, the importance of the junior clients, etc…). It will be a long post, and it will probably ramble a touch – largely because there’s clearly no established set of rules for winning a pitch. And if there were, I wouldn’t post them here. I like you people, but not that much.


So this is a post about losing pitches – or, more specifically, how to deal with losing pitches. The fact of the matter is that everybody in this industry will lose pitches. I’ve been fortunate enough to be on the winning side on more occasions than not (I’m still young enough for that to change…) but show me someone who’s never lost a pitch and I’ll show you someone who either doesn’t work in advertising, or is just lying on Twitter. As you might expect though, there’s more than one way to lose a pitch – the small pieces of advice I offer here are designed to help you do it better, and to get you through to the other side.

First up, and this is an obvious one, be gracious. If the pitch is through any kind of intermediary (and most are), you need to stay in their good books – you gain nothing by being sullen or petulant. When you discover who’s won, offer your congratulations to the successful Agency. In pitches, as in life, being a gentleman can only bring good things, while moaning or complaining just makes you look like a child.

Feedback is vital, and inevitably hard to take. Whether you’re pitching for a multi-million pound piece of business, or a small local client, an enormous amount of emotional investment goes into a pitch – as a result, it hurts when you lose. And the one thing that hurts even more is finding out exactly why you lost: what you did that they didn’t like; what you said that they didn’t agree with; what you misinterpreted on the pitch brief; whose personality clashed with whose. But you have to swallow your pride, and dive right in. Speak to the intermediary, speak to the client (if you can) and be self-critical – what could you have done better, when could you have worked harder, how could your thinking have been more rigorous? Everything you learn will make you better prepared for the next pitch.

And once you’ve done that, move on. Wallowing helps no-one. You have to pick yourself up, dust yourself on and start looking for the next opportunity. There will always be another pitch.

And finally, go for a drink. Go for several drinks. The inevitable reality is that when a team wins a pitch, everyone in the Agency wins a pitch. When a team loses a pitch, the team tend to be left alone with their loss. The responsibility of the Suit is to lead that team out to the pub as much as it was to lead that team into the pitch itself. So drink, rant, laugh, realise that you didn’t want to win anyway, fall over and move on. You will all be better Adlanders for it.
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Categories: PITCHING, TIPS
  1. shib
    May 20, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    Good post :)No one like a sore loser!

  2. golublog
    May 21, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    Pitches are always the most exciting part, but they can be the most disappointing as well.

  3. Anonymous
    May 24, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    Also, have your list of employee redundancies prepared beforehand. That saves valuable time.

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