Turning a Neglected Assignment Brief into a Stellar Pitch Presentation

By Philippe Leblond, Founder of OpenHuddle. This article is part of a series on best practices ad agencies, especially healthcare agencies, can use in discovering and seizing new opportunities for growth. Don’t miss Philippe’s first article.


For over a decade, I sat on the client-side and reviewed dozens of pharmaceutical pitches. Throughout that time, I wondered why healthcare agencies took such distinct approaches to pitching. From the audacious “take it or leave it” to pitching multiple concepts with varying levels of spiciness, all presented with such confidence.

How can these distinct methods be successful in a traditional pitch process?

It all starts with the brief. Healthcare agencies need to be inspired to do their best work. The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) goes a step further by stating, “Inspiration doesn’t come from a template or a deck alone; it requires a well-designed, well-written, and thoughtfully delivered brief and briefing process.”

The majority of pharmaceutical marketers share ANA’s point of view. Unfortunately, the amount of attention and time dedicated to these documents leaves much to be desired. A 2015 ANA survey of clients and agencies found a wide gap between each side’s rating of brief quality. While 58% of clients believed that they provided clear assignment briefings to the agency, only 27% of agencies agreed.

While issues with the current and traditional briefing process are well documented and are not expected to change anytime soon, how can healthcare agencies prepare stellar pitch presentations?

The 4A’s advocates for open communication with clients during the pitch process. “Understanding the type of client this marketer will be, and the type of work the individual clients and the client organization are likely to embrace, are keys to a successful pitch and the beginning of a strong working relationship.”

A recent survey conducted by OpenHuddle also identified the importance of a well-comprehended brief by ranking the most critical pitch components.

Chart ranking of new business pitch components in order of importance
OpenHuddle, Pharmaceutical Marketing & Healthcare Agency Professional Relationship, 12/2020

At a minimum, pharmaceutical marketers expect healthcare agencies to fully comprehend their briefs and have their marketing strategies creatively reflected in agencies’ recommendations. The same expectations resonated when survey respondents were asked how they evaluated healthcare agencies’ opportunities and new ideas.

Chart ranking importance of criteria when evaluating new ideas from agenices
OpenHuddle, Pharmaceutical Marketing & Healthcare Agency Professional Relationship, 12/2020

A great example I witnessed was a pitch that dealt with the complexity of launching a drug with a similar indication, or medical treatment, to another owned product. This team excelled by spending most of the presentation reiterating the challenges identified, aligning with the marketing strategy highlighted in the brief, and ultimately providing applicable solutions.

Based on its findings, OpenHuddle encourages healthcare agencies to maximize their opportunities to communicate with clients during the pitch process, which means structuring meetings leading to the pitch while ensuring key stakeholders partake in these discussions. Using these few weeks efficiently and getting the right people involved will empower healthcare agencies to fill the gaps within assignment briefs and fully comprehend their content.

Coming back to the two distinct pitching approaches, both were able to win their respective business. The uniting explanation was a complete comprehension of the assignment brief. It made one confident enough to present only one idea and the other to go extra spicy.

To receive the full report from OpenHuddle, please contact Philippe Leblond at [email protected].


About OpenHuddle
Founded and operated by Philippe Leblond, OpenHuddle is a partnering agency and a proud 4A’s member that helps healthcare agencies discover and take advantage of new opportunities for growth. OpenHuddle firmly believes that it can make a major difference in the business relationships that every healthcare agency needs to thrive. Having worked in the pharmaceutical industry for over a decade, and thereby acquiring a wide range of knowledge and business contacts, the founder was preparing to take on this venture before he even knew what it would be. OpenHuddle holds the insider perspective on understanding your pharmaceutical clients as no one else can. To learn more, visit openhuddle.co.