Agency pitch? Beware shiny objects.

It happens.  A one-off ad.  A captivating app.  A single pitch participant.  Perhaps even captivating theatrics.  It’s something that outshines everything or everyone else in a pitch – so much so that it distracts you from the other content or people in the pitch process.

It’s “shiny object syndrome” – a mesmerizing distraction that has you focusing on one thing rather than the holistic offering being presented.  And unfortunately, usually the wrong thing.

Shiny object syndrome can be a dangerous thing.  For one thing, it can take many forms:

  • A single presenter who outshines all other participants
  • An engaging app
  • A single ad within a campaign
  • A single event that augments other creative
  • A one-time PR stunt
  • A unique media placement idea
  • A one-time promotion
  • Pitch theatrics

The list goes on. But the common thread is they’re all one-off ideas or an individual that captivates so intently, that it distracts you from everything else.

Generally speaking, shiny object syndrome ideas and execution have short lifespans and once executed, the broader attributes of the pitch come to the fore and the cracks begin to emerge.

So what steps should marketers take to guard against and avoid shiny object syndrome in a pitch situation?

Understand your own organization

Understanding your organization’s issues as they relate to calling an agency search sets the framework for what you’ll be looking for and what’s really important in your evaluation process. Our agency health check or incumbent agency stakeholder process can help focus your team on what’s important and avoid shiny object syndrome.

Know what you’re looking for 

Before calling an agency search (and before the opportunity for shiny object syndrome can present itself), articulate the key criteria that are important in your search process. 

Align your search team

As your search team comes together, ensure everyone understands the reasons for calling a search and what attributes you want them to evaluate and find in a new agency – regardless of any shiny objects that may appear in the process.

Create a great scorecard

Developed properly, scorecards can serve as an invaluable tool in the search process. Well-crafted, properly structured scorecards are essentially the written defense against shiny object syndrome. For more on creating scorecards – see our post here.

Identify your deal-breakers

In any agency search process there are likely deal breakers that would likely prevent you from selecting a given agency.  It might be chemistry, it might be price, it might be process – whatever it is – be sure your deal breakers are addressed – irrespective of shiny object syndrome.

Ask the right questions

I’ve written before on valuable questions every marketer should ask in a pitch and these questions can be a valuable check against shiny objects presented in a pitch situation.  And if  you need more – click here.

As bright and dazzling as shiny objects may be, don’t be mesmerized by their fleeting appearances that outshine what’s really important in an agency pitch and agency evaluation process.


Stephan Argent is Founder and Principal at Listenmore Inc offering confidential advisory to marketers looking for truly independent insight and advice they can’t find anywhere else. Read more like this on our blog Marketing Unscrewed / follow me @StephanArgent 

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