It’s obvious.Â To be honest, I don’t think anyone really knows what proportion of agencies repitching for business actually manage to hang on to it, but I think everyone does know that the proportion isn’t high.
True, it’s probably somewhat higher in so-called “statutory” repitches, when the clients claim (truthfully or otherwise) that they’re obliged to put the business up for review after a given period of time:Â and that’s obviously a closer analogy with a General Election than the non-statutory kind.
But even though the announcement of a statutory review doesn’t necessarily indicate any actual dissatisfaction with the agency’s performance, the business still changes hands remarkably often.Â And when you think about it, the psychology is pretty obvious:Â forgive the rather complicated metaphor, but it’s a bit like three or four attractive and clearly very enthusiastic people of the appropriate sex pitching against the incumbent to be someone of the appropriate sex’s boyfriend or girlfriend.
The thing about the incumbent in this situation is that he or she is a known quantity, and that inevitably must mean that some of what is known is not good.Â The newcomers are unknown quantities:Â since they haven’t actually done anything yet, they haven’t done anything bad.Â If the decision-maker is loyal, careful, fair and risk-averse, then he or she may take the view that the new candidates are bound to have imperfections too, so the incumbent’s failings shouldn’t loom too large.Â But if the decision maker is a flighty, thrill-seeking hedonist, well, you can see what’s going to happen, can’t you.
The broader and somewhat more troubling question that arises from this is the extent to which any of us would really like to be judged on our track records.
I’m not thinking here about individual client relationships.Â I’ve often been involved in teams working on particular accounts that have done an excellent job for their clients and could certainly go into any repitch with their heads held extremely high.Â I’m thinking more in a rather middle-aged helicopter-overview way about the whole damn thing – the extent to which the sum total of what I’ve done over more than 30 years in agencies does justice to my abilities.
I’m not sure whether it’s usual or unusual, or for that matter a good thing or a bad thing, but I must own up to a pretty strong feeling that my career over all those long years undersells me.Â I appreciate that I’m very probably quite wrong about this:Â that even if I’m right to think that some of my strengths could have taken me further,Â I’m silly and myopic not to realise that my corresponding weaknesses have inevitably held me back.
But anyway.Â I’m writing this as election commentary, not therapy.Â And mark my words:Â assuming that David Cameron gets in on Thursday (and I’m quite strongly inclined to think he will, although whether with an overall majority is a much more difficult call), the biggest single reason will not be a long-lasting one:Â it’ll just be because we don’t really know anything seriously bad about him.
Or not yet we don’t, anyway.