There's been a lot of discussion recently in New Media Age about client and agency relationships, particularly around the issue of paying for pitch work.
My background is both agency and client-side. Yes, it is frustrating (and pretty expensive!) pitching for work as an agency. And when you don't get the job, and the reason from the client seems pretty spurious or poorly judged, then it can be devastating.
But it's also pretty expensive client-side as well. We have to arrange the review process, manage it (in a global company that ain't easy!), and then go through formalised selection and ranking criteria, before contacting successful agencies (and dealing with the fall out from the others, seriously some agency sales directors can get downright aggressive).
This takes hours and hours! Trust me, clients don't really like agency pitches either.
One solution is to use a number of preferred agencies only. You only then have to go through the pitch process once: judge them on their past agency work, on their ability offer specific digital requirements, on cultural/business fit, and then test them on a small amount of work to see if they fit (could they handle the pressure, is the work up to scratch etc etc) without making undue resource demands.
We did something similar, and now have a roster of agencies across a good mix of disciplines- technical, visual, content, user experience, production etc.
Once on the list, if we have a project for them we only ask for proposals (costs, approach, timescales etc) as we are confident in their particular abilities. Noone has let us down yet.
The plan is to update our list irregularly, and this should keep the pitch input from both sides down.
Result? Happy agencies, getting regular work + happy client, getting good service from selected, trusted agencies.
So, to learn - treat your clients and your agencies with respect, coz you both need each other. Respect that you have different requirements, and appreciate the differences.
But above all, talk to each other, so if the level of "free" input on a pitch is unrealistic (too much/too little) you both discuss other ways of achieving a fair selection.