Pitch and industry guidelines play an important role in awarding advertising agency contracts, but agencies must take into account that not all advertisers will adhere to these guidelines. The exploratory research study on which this article reports provides insight into the appointment process and selection criteria applied during the appointment of advertising agencies. This article examines the views of 116 senior marketing executives in South Africa to determine typical decision processes followed when advertising agencies are appointed. Consideration is also given to the structural arrangements in place, the composition and size of buying centres, switching barriers that make it more diffi cult or costly for advertisers to change agencies and selection criteria used to appoint advertising agencies. Data were obtained by means of structured questionnaires administered via a web-based survey. The findings provide advertisers with insights into procurement decisions and selection criteria and can also provide valuable insight to agencies with regard to buying decision approaches taken by advertisers. Insight into the size and composition of buying centres adds to agencies’ understanding of who to target during customer relationship-building initiatives. From an academic perspective, this research off ers a better understanding of the organisational buying process and the importance of selection criteria within the South African context.