How new ways of working fuelled agency pitch activity

Listenmore's annual report shows AOR pitches rose to 2018 levels, with holding company shops benefiting most.

Adapting to the pandemic and a seismic shift in the job market had major impacts on the marketing business, and according to Stephan Argent, founder and president of ListenMore, it’s reflected in pitch activity.

ListenMore’s second annual Canadian Agency Pitch Report tracked and summarized Canadian agency pitches over 2021, compiling all of the information available to provide as clear a picture as possible about the state of the Canadian marketplace in one place.

According to the report, agency-of-record pitching activity increased 68% in 2021 over the year prior, reaching a level of activity not seen since 2018. Overall pitching activity across all of the categories tracked by the report, which include AOR, PR, digital and media, was up 40%. The report also breaks out whether the work was won by independent or holding company agencies, and which sector the assignment fell under.

Argent attributes part of the surge in new AOR assignments to the fact that “people had figured out” how to work under pandemic conditions over the previous year, and felt a greater degree of comfort to make the necessary moves in 2021.

“Everyone had become comfortable with Zoom, Teams, or whatever they needed to do to move forward, and that spurred the market on. There was a lot of pent-up demand because of postponed searches in 2020,” says Argent. “And by 2021, clients had redefined and reprioritized their own requirements and scope of work.”

In addition to those changes, the Great Resignation was also a driving factor behind the trend.

“You had a lot of new blood coming in to marketers and agencies and it fueled those changes,” Argent notes. “Those marketers and agencies had to reevaluate.”

The year was a particularly strong one for the agencies within the big six holding companies, according to the report: they more than doubled their win rate, improving their win ratio against independents to its best since 2017. The most active pitch sectors were retail and packaged goods.