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How Oracle structures its PR pitch process

14th August 2017

PRmoment founder Ben Smith recently caught up with Oracle’s VP PR and communications JAPAC and EMEA Chris Talago to get a view on how the pitch process works from the client side of things. An agency perspective is outlined in our Good Pitch article.

Ben Smith: Does Oracle have a set process to go through when looking for an agency? Is there a formalised sequence of steps?

Chris Talago: Yes we do.

 BS: What are the things that tend to win it?


BS: In terms of social, video and integration expertise, what are the proof points on that? Is it just previous work credentials? How do you make that decision that I actually believe you can do it?

CT: Essentially it’s proof of work and previous clients.

BS: So that comes at the credentials stage really? Once you get to the pitch you are trusting that they can do what they say?

CT: Yes, we would have weeded out those who we don’t think have the capability by the pitch stage. By the time we get to the final three we’re pretty certain that those agencies can do what we need them to do. Or if they can’t we’re know what that is and that is one of the compromises that we are prepared to make in the final decision.

 BS: So they might not be great at one element but they are so good at something else you are prepared to compromise?

CT: Yes, or you just get another agency to do that element. To some extent it depends on your prioritisation of tasks. There is some of the stuff that we ask agencies to do that is pretty standard and takes up about 40% of our time together. If they can’t do that then we are not going to work together. If they can do that but they can’t do something that takes up 5% of our time together – OK we can have a discussion about how we cover that gap, or help them build up their own capability.

BS: What are the most important factors in the decision?

CT: It’s a thorough understanding of our audience and a thorough understanding of what we need to do and the creativity that comes out of that needs to be applied creativity. It must be routed in what the audience want and the direction we need the brand to be moving.

BS: And finally what are the top five things that agencies get wrong in the pitch process?

  1. Too generic. We could be any client. They have just whacked something together and it’s pretty obvious they have just whacked something together. Predominantly this happens at the credentials stage and that would be one of the things that we would say “thanks for playing, but no need to trouble you anymore.”
  2. Be true to what you do and do it well. It’s what WE’s Alan Vandermolen calls “Acute agency identity disorder.” What I mean by that is that I’m OK if you can do tasks a, b and c but not d and f. Just be honest about that and tell me how you will overcome it. What comes across as far less credible is when they say they can do everything.
  3. Not having a root to your pitch in data. What does the measurement say? What does your audience insight say? What research have you done? How does that root itself in your creative approach? Because without that – it’s just your opinion.
  4. Not having a good approach to measurement. How are you going to deliver success and how will you know when you get there.
  5. Passion and energy. That feeling of “I want to work with these people.” I can trust these people; they will move heaven and earth to make it happen. The agency has to have intelligence that is within the pitch, but there is no point having the brains without great execution.

BS: What is the role of procurement? A few years ago there were stories of comms directors working for agencies they didn’t want to work worth because of a reverse auction.

CT: For us they (procurement) are a wonderful partner. The PR team drive the process, but the procurement team help us a huge amount. They do the contractual negotiations and the process definition. There are no reverse auctions or anything like that. For Oracle at least there is a very good understanding that what we’re buying isn’t widgets – we’re buying value. We have specialists who look at the agency selection. They are able to offer great advice because they go around the world working on marketing agency creative pitches and so they are able to bring best practice from one field into another. For me it has nothing but a positive experience. When I was agency side I have been privy to some real nightmare experiences. There was one example when we were asked to take part in a reverse auction and we refused to take part. So there are a few brands out there that don’t get the value that procurement can add.

BS: On the pricing negotiation, how does it work, what is the input of procurement?

CT: The process is collaborative. For example, pricing is one of the elements of the RFP and when that comes in the procurement guys would give us an assessment. So for example, this agency is priced like this, here is the pecking order and here is where we see value here. If you pick this agency there is potential for a volume discount, if you pick this one here is a different approach we might take.

 As I say it’s far more of a consultation. They would never say don’t pick that agency purely on price. They might give advice on the best way to negotiate, they might do some of that negotiation themselves but they would not tell us to make an agency decision on the basis of price.

 I have never felt like I couldn’t have the agency that I wanted.

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