A new digital way – marketing and pitching in a pandemic

On the 2nd June, we hosted our second webinar as part of our ‘The New World of New Biz’ online series. In these monthly sessions we bring together New Business Directors, Agency Owners and guest Brand Speakers to discuss what’s working, how the market is evolving and where to focus efforts to ensure new possibilities and opportunities are unlocked.

The New World of New Biz June

Each month we are joined by three panellists, one from a brand and two from agencies. Along with our Founder, Katie Street, together they provided agency leaders and those responsible for new business with ideas and support in this new world of new business we’re currently living in.

The New World of New Biz June

For June’s webinar we were joined by:

  • Vincent Gillet, previously VP of International Marketing at Hertz, currently launching a new start up in the mobility space
  • Alex Johnson, Senior New Business Manager, Born Social
  • James Lilley, New Business Director, McCann

Katie quizzed the panellists on what brands what to hear from agencies and how they want to be reached, why brands should be helpful and the importance of agencies revisiting their agency proposition and values to ensure they are looking at the new needs of their audience.

Pivoting in uncertain times

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Alex, Senior New Business Manager, Born Social said as an agency they felt out of control, a feeling they’ve not experienced before where new clients were pausing contracts. James Lilley, New Business Director, McCann, agreed and was unsure at first with what would happen to the New Business role, “New Business is going to be hard now, which Marketing Director is going to be making a decision on which agency they’re going to be using”.

Thankfully, James said that the pipeline is looking strong for McCann now after changing their approach, working on strategies on how they could be front of mind for their audience. They switched to a more content lead approach as well as webinars and community projects such as their Welcome Back To Work competition for 11-19 year olds.

Alex spoke about the fact that social was an interesting space during the pandemic as a lot of people were, and still are using it to communicate which gave Born Social the ability to increase their outbound efforts. They have increased their digital events and marketing efforts and they are now pleased to be seeing more briefs coming through again as things were on pause for a while.

Switching from Sales to Marketing

Katie talked about the importance of switching from Sales to Marketing, and the need for pushing out helpful content and has noticed that there is less of a sales approach and more of a marketing approach during this time. Katie then asked the panel what they think has been the most important thing that they’ve changed that is helping to attract opportunities.

“It’s not just one thing, but multiple touch points”, said James, he mentioned that webinars have been successful for them, and judge the success of these on the amount of people who pursue conversations with them afterwards.

Alex agreed that a combination of activities is crucial, including digital events as you can judge the success easily. She said they are a good way to see what challenges their audience are having and you can see which topics resonate with people.

Meeting people over video

Katie feels that she’s able to have more conversations with people these past few months, and it now feels natural to have a zoom call with someone she’s never met. Alex agreed and said video meetings have allowed an insight into people’s living rooms and seeing people’s children which has made things human. James stressed the importance of getting your personality across in video calls which he believes has been a bonus of the lockdown.

Pitching digitally

Alex said that pitching online has been harder, especially getting to grips with the tech, and therefore more rehearsals have been needed. She referred to a Campaign article, and said when pitching digitally “you need to put more energy in when speaking to get your points across”.

Katie hopes that what is happening now, may slightly change the ‘big pitches’ in the future, and supplied some tips on digital pitching including:

  • Throughout your pitch keep them engaged
  • Ask them questions throughout
  • Make them aware of collaboration
  • Making sure you’re at eye level
  • Think about your background
  • Have chemistry between the pitching team

James then referred to a video from Dave Abbot about a pre-recorded pitch; The BT pitch, and said how relevant it is now and suggested people watch it as it is a great example of how to run a pitch at the moment.

Vincent said, “nothing beats face to face time, but in this environment when you are engaging with people from different places in the world this is a good rehearsal for global pitches”.

In housing for brands

Hertz worked with The Oliver Group to in-house some of their business said Vincent, which allowed them to have “amazing creative talent” and deliver things quickly. He said that it was good for the company and its employees to see the agency in the office and see them in action rather than them just delivering work from their own agency office.

New opportunities

Vincent talked about how unfortunately, Hertz has been sadly affected by Covid-19, and he has therefore decided to leave the company and start a new venture in the mobility space.

Vincent spoke about how over 6 million company cars are sold every year as a HR benefit. He wants to deliver a “greener, cheaper, flexible alternative which is called ‘mobility as a  service’, which is an app that gives multiple travel choices in a set budget given to you by your company to book your train, bike, scooter, car share, car rental or taxi all within an app, connected to the travel policy of the business”. Vincent is keen to get people out of their cars, and companies will be looking at their cost line, and looking for greener alternatives that are flexible.

What do brands want to hear from agencies?

Katie asked Vincent from a brand perspective, what they want to hear and see from agencies. Vincent said that it depends on what industry brands are in and how mature they are, but said from a travel, leisure, retail perspective, at the moment these industry’s customer experience has been disrupted so messaging needs to reflect this.

Agencies need to help brands with their acceleration of digitalisation, brands are looking for agency support on how to get there in the quickest way, and how to create new meaningful relationships with customers. Agencies also need to help their clients with how to best communicate their values to their customers effectively as possible. With the landscape changing brands will be saying “help me get there, how do I get there, how do I make it meaningful and how do I communicate it” said Vincent. 

Do brands read agencies emails?

Katie talked about the amount of outreach emails brands must receive from agencies and asked Vincent “do you read emails and do they need a tactic or a vehicle to attract you, can they get through to you on email or should they used LinkedIn to start conversations with you?”.

Vincent said he does read emails and responds to most of them but suggested it’s worth going to the functional head who is responsible for budget. Vincent couldn’t say the best way to reach brands, but Katie suggested giving something that is “truly helpful and make sure you’ve done your research to fully understand what the customer’s needs are and what you are putting on is going to help them, and a webinar can be a great vehicle for that”.

Webinar fatigue

With not currently being able to get together in the psychical space due to government guidelines the panel discussed whether people are getting webinar fatigue, James said he is “bored of crap webinars” and Katie said that she’s a great believer in “getting people together to chat about what’s working and the best ideas come from people with different backgrounds, knowledge, and industries”.

Katie recalled that prior to Covid-19, research stated that the ways most CMO’s want to be engaged with is usually face to face, Vincent agreed and said that webinars and “seeing people’s faces is positive and helps to connect and brings things together which is a positive and more sustainable outlook on life too”.

Alex said she thinks there is more of a “corona fatigue, and people are sick of hearing how they need to pivot, evolve and the different phases we’re going through, it’s everywhere”. In reaction to this, Born Social have been exploring things that aren’t Covid related and this has had a positive effect on sign ups.

Lead times

Katie asked the panel whether their lead times have changed since the pandemic, suggesting “we usually work on a minimum of 6-8 weeks lead time, this is something that has totally flipped on its head, and I don’t think anyone is looking at their diaries that far ahead anymore, it is much shorter”.

Alex agreed and said they’ve been doing two webinars a month which has worked and has been interesting comparing to ‘normal’ events where you have to think about catering, and a venue, and now “the content is the most important thing, everything is stripped back and you have to think about what it is you’re trying to communicate, is it worthwhile, is it valuable”. She said that they constantly have to think and put themselves in the shoes of those attending the webinar and what are they looking to get out of it.


To wrap the session up, Katie asked the panel what agencies should be doing now to help them attract new clients that need them:

  • Agencies should be doing things to help their brands deliver work that help their customers
  • Communicate their actions
  • Try and be interested and interesting
  • Understand your audience
  • Double down on agency proposition and what your values are and how you are different

Katie ended the session by saying “whatever agency you are, the landscape has changed, be true to who you are and how you can help people, but don’t forget to look at your customers, what are their needs now, have they changed? Think about how you can help them and don’t be afraid to evolve your agency offering and messaging around that because if you don’t you’ll get left behind”.

If you weren’t able to make the webinar or you’d like to watch it back, here’s the video recording:

The New World of New Biz webinars are held on the first Tuesday of each month on Zoom at 11am, click the link to join us.

By Katie Street
4th June 2020
7 minute read