Often, the pitching process means that agencies think up speculative creative work, and then the client picking the agency whose work they like best.
It’s a marvelously foolish way to pick an ad agency. Incompetent shops occasionally stumble onto something brilliant, and brilliant shops occasionally vomit up something awful. Either can happen in the pitching process. A client hiring an agency based on one speculative campaign is like a baseball team recruiting a player after watching him or her perform in just one game.
Ideas matter, but there is more to the client-agency relationship. Like strategic thinking, listening skills, responsiveness, media acumen, flexibility, commitment, passion, experience, knowledge, personality, ethics… and more.
Regardless of which agency they hire, AutoZone wants to own all of the speculative work that all agencies bring them. They will pay each agency $30,000 for its spec work. So if you end up becoming AutoZone’s agency, you might be producing someone else’s work. If you sell them only your idea, another agency may make a fortune producing it long after you’ve spent your $30,000.
More than a few agencies have said “no thanks” and dropped out of the running.
AutoZone is not the first to do this. But they could be more direct about it. They could simply say, “We want to buy ideas from qualified shops for $30,000 apiece.” Perhaps this would lead to the emergence of more agencies who limit their work to cooking up an idea for a fee and then walking away.