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In a world where every company is striving for the next big thing, competition seems inevitable. In the arena of agency pitches, this hunt for the new becomes a blood sport in which there are rarely any real winners.

A dialog with Yoda

The wisdom of the stars

Let’s remember a scene from “Star Wars” in which Luke Skywalker, still green behind the ears, is in search of a great warrior. He describes Master Yoda as such, without realizing that he is already standing in front of him.

Yoda’s answer is memorable: “Wars don’t make anyone great.” This sentence, simple yet revolutionary, shatters the traditional image of heroic struggle and turns our idea of ‘winning’ on its head.

Pitch und Yoda

The pitch

A stage for failure?

Agencies worldwide enter the ring, armed with PowerPoint slides and creative concepts, in the hope of convincing the jury – or rather the client – of their visions. However, the real battleground is not between the presenting parties, but in the countless hours of unpaid work. A competition in which the trophies are often carved out of nothing more than recognition and hope.

The true cost of a pitch: lost creativity and wasted resources

Every pitch takes its toll – in the form of time, energy and creative juice. Agencies that enter the arena like modern-day gladiators often pay a high price: the burnout of their most creative minds, the erosion of their morale and a dwindling bank of truly innovative ideas wasted on projects that may never see the light of day.

The alternative: a partnership

The art of not fighting

We could all learn something by reflecting on Yoda’s wisdom. Perhaps the greatest victories are the ones we win by choosing not to fight. The true mastery may lie in choosing slowly and carefully where we invest our energies.

By cultivating relationships instead of competitions, we are rewriting the rules of the game. That way you always win.

Agencies that drive change

While the romantic allure of fighting for the favor of a new client may be irresistible, there are agencies that have taken a more pragmatic – and perhaps wiser – route.

One outstanding example is the agency Wieden+Kennedy, which is known for being selected without submitting to the bitter pitch process. Their strategy is based on building long-term relationships and the trust they have gained through consistently outstanding work.

Another example is the technology company Basecamp, which is not active in the traditional advertising industry, but nevertheless occupies a relevant position in the discussion. Its founders have publicly spoken out against the cultural norms of ‘pitching’ and instead emphasize the value of direct, authentic business relationships.

Specific argumentation and its advantages

These agencies argue that refusing unpaid pitches is not only a question of economic sustainability, but also one of preserving creativity.

By breaking the cycle of constant competition, they can focus their resources on nurturing existing customer relationships and refining their craftsmanship.

This attitude not only fosters deeper collaboration and a better understanding of customer needs, but also protects the creative integrity and morale of their teams.

The long-term benefits of an ethical attitude

It turns out that agencies that decide against unpaid pitches often build a stronger, trust-based relationship with their clients. These relationships are characterized by mutual respect and a deeper understanding of the respective business objectives.

Moving away from the pitching process is therefore not only an ethical but also a strategic advantage that sets these companies apart from their competitors.

Two decades ago, I was regularly in the spotlight of pitches. We won, often, and it was fun. A good friend and colleague, Ewald Pichler from the dmcgroup, then asked me a simple question 10 or 20 years ago: "How do you want to spend your precious lifetime?"

This question fundamentally changed my attitude to work and life. I learned to only invest my energy and passion in projects that I really enjoy. Today, far removed from the youthful days of tireless ambition, I still work with the same passion for this very reason. But only on projects that make my heart beat faster. And an agency pitch is certainly not one of them.

Norbert Kathriner