Shout! Interview with Darren Woolley of Trinity P3

Darren Woolley runs Trinity P3 the agency management consultancy and pitch review specialists in Australia.

Talk to us about Building the relationship – some call it the ‘hunt’ or ‘the seduction’.

I was a Creative Director at JWT Australia and we were pitching all the time during my 5 years there.  I enjoyed the challenge of the pitch but they were all run so badly.  This inspired me to set up Trinity P3.

Creative Business Principles

  1. I believe in the golden rule – the man with the gold makes the rules.  If i want to influence the process I go with the gold.
  2. The agencies pay enough in this process – biz dev is a high cost of business.  Marketers should only pay for them if they have abnormal requirements of the agency e.g. fully worked up TV commercials, or want to see 100 concepts.  And if they want to own IP.

I’ve seen clients make a token payment of $5k to the agency which is an insult as agency costs on a big pitch  can be $100k plus.  Think of behavioral economics – the client gets often more demanding after a payment like this rather than less so the money doesn’t help the resultant business relationship.

What are the changes you’ve observed in the business

I founded Trinity P3 in January 2000 and the biggest change in marketing is complexity – increased opportunities through technology, mobile channels, access to data, internet and of course consumer power through social media.  Marketers are struggling with complexity as there are multiple stakeholders internally and multiple suppliers externally.

On the pitching side you get these complex pitches – in media they could be looking at a media planning/buying agency, a data analytics agency and a strategy agency.  There can be multiple combinations of suppliers in the one process.  The brand is looking for the best combination at the end of the day.

How do you differentiate different agencies?

I talk about content creation and channel.

I’ve run pitches with 12 agencies but within that are 3 groups : traditional creative plus digital, digital specialists and creative specialists.  Ultimately a brand wants someone to handle all their content needs.

Collaboration – we’ve moved away from beauty parades to doing strategy workshops – the client wanted to choose media, creative and digital.  We ran the 3 in parallel simultaneously.  So all three categories participated in a full day strategy workshop with the client.  3 agencies in each of 3 workshops.

What were the benefits of workshops?

We selected the 12 agencies by reviewing their credentials first – what were capabilities of each agency business.  Next we looked at chemistry – understand the client/agency meeting and how that went.  The client then selected 3 from each skill group.

We put them together in grouping – which we worked out by asking them who they’d worked with [we didn’t tell them who else was in the pitch] there were already alignments.  A few had already done work together.  And we considered the culture of each agency and thought who would fit well together and with the client.

We bought a creative from one group, digital from another.  Testing collaboration doesn’t mean you buy the package – the workshops were about working with the client and also with each other.  e.g. in one grouping the Creative agency completely dominated the digital agency.  They clearly didn’t understand what collaboration meant and the digital agency didn’t have the confidence or wherewithal to maintain their presence in that process – they folded under pressure.

How does agency collaboration work in practice?

Marketers find hit hard to articulate and manage the collaborative process: The client should set the rules.  It’s not within many brand managers’ skill set.  They don’t necessarily have the people skill set to do it – they often don’t think they have permission to manage their agencies.

We have marketers contacting us to say they have problems – they don’t like the confrontation of honest feedback with their agency.  It often means telling the agency things that are subjective or emotional and many people feel out of their depth because it’s not rational and can’t be justified.

How do you select the winning team?

We use score cards – we used to use both emotional and rational ones.  I dropped the emotional ones because I found they were mirrored by the rational one.

[emotional questions like: you’ve had a bad week but most of the issues with the agency were resolved. On Friday night select which one you’d like to have a drink with.

You’ve been given a career opportunity with a competitor: List the agency CEOs who you’d feel confident asking for career advice.]

The rational ones are driven by their emotions – so there was not point asking the emotional questions….When  you use scorecards – do you weight answers.  We don’t use them to make the selection – we use it to help brands structure their thinking.

We look at what attributes scored well. The danger with weightings is you are dealing with averages and weightings just upscore one average.  You can fudge the numbers.

So we discuss with the brand, “here’s the scores and let’s look at those who scored highly for the things you value”.

What is your biggest biz dev learning?

The biggest learning I made in 12 years of pitching was so many times clients would say your creative wasn’t up to scratch…. so everyone blamed me as I was the Creative Director.  I found that creativity is an easy way of saying actually we didn’t like the chemistry or the MD was sleazy.


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