The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Who Persuaded Who?
May 22, 2009, 6:11 am
Filed under: Advertising [Planning] School On The Web

So finally the opinions are back …

Sorry for the delay, but with a judging panel made up of artists, barristers and mothers – you have to accept these people have busy lives.

Now I don’t know whether it was because it was a shit assignment or because people are working 23.45 hours of the day to make ends meet during the economic crisis – but there weren’t that many respondents to this challenge.

Of course when Gareth or NP do the next one and they get 400 submissions, we’ll know the real person to blame is me … however putting that aside, let’s get on with what your heads came up with.

Without doubt it was a rather different assignment to the ones we’ve had previously … however I honestly believe it was an important one and if you want to end up doing great work rather than good – especially with more and more companies embracing blatant conservatism – the ability to persuade is going to become even more valuable, important and [from a pay packet perspective] desirable.

Now this was an assignment – like most things to do with communication – where appointing a ‘winner’ was more to do with how the judges ‘felt’ about the submissions rather than anything more scientific, however to aid them in their evaluation, I asked them to consider the following things …

1/ Flow of presentation

2/ Power of imagination

3/ Clarity and logic of the proposed strategy

Finally – before we get to the feedback – I just want to talk about the importance of presentation.

In an ideal World, it would be nice to think substance will always beat out style … however sadly, there are still a large amount of clients that get seduced by the glamour of it all … so whilst I am not suggesting you should start creating your strategies around the quality of images you can source, I do think it’s important you remember about the impression you want to make on your prospective client though that doesn’t mean you adopt a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, but spend some time understanding the psyche of the person you are about to take on a journey.

Even though I say it myself, I’m pretty good at this ‘character evaluation’ lark – which is why before every new presentation, we spend quite a bit of time getting to know the character of all the people we’re about to stand infront of.

What’s their background?

Are they more analytical or visual?

Are they ambitious or ‘company men’?

What brands do they associate with or want to associate with?

Who do they admire?

Favourite film/book/band?

By getting an understanding on this sort of information, it helps shape the way you present – not interms of changing who you are or what you think and believe, but interms of the language, mannerisms, detail and focus of your recommendation.

Hell, it’s because of this approach that we’ve adopted all manner of presentation styles to ensure we were truly relevant to our audience, from hiring Personal Trainers to pitch for a sports brand on our behalf [because we knew our physical appearance would probably distract the uber-fit marketing director from paying attention to what we were saying] to getting an artist to paint our entire strategy as a piece of work.

Of course not everyone is good at visual design – hell, my wife is convinced I am the Stevie Wonder of art direction – so if you worry you’re not good enough, don’t just read other people’s work for inspiration … go and check out a range of magazines and see how they do it or simply make friends with some designers and ask for some help because your career is too short to allow your ego to consistently trip you up, ha!

Oh, and all of you had presentation covers that pretty much conveyed the same info …

From the very first page, you should be setting up your argument.

Give the title of your preso something that will grab the participants attention … something that links into your overall idea … something that challenges or promises … don’t give it a pithy title that blandly relates to the executional nature of the brief with your name and date on it.

I’ve said it before, but read Don Simpson’s “High Concept” book … that guy sold multi-million dollar movie concepts in 60 seconds and it all started from the first second he walked into the meeting, not the last.

Trust me, if a client has had a day of pitches where every agency presents their ‘brilliant ideas’ in the same way, using the same format … you can stand out without the aid of props, gimmicks or stupidity … you can do it by simply being efficient, focused, interesting and exciting from the moment you walk in the room, which I guarantee will be remembered far more than a presentation that requires 27 slides before you even get to a bit where the clients issues are even mentioned.

Anyway I digress … onto the judging …


One of the judges [Andy] said this was like a Hollywood movie … starts off really interesting and then sort of loses speed and energy about half way through.

Without doubt this presentation demonstrated a great knowledge of current affairs as well as the role and purpose of a national flag. We also liked the use of the tag cloud though one judge, did dismiss it as “an attempt to seduce the uninformed” however overall it felt like there was a lot of facts being thrown about without any clear purpose for their role.

We got what you were trying to say/do – but it just felt like you weren’t really convinced about it and basically made the best of it as you could, because the thought of starting again was too much to handle.

That sounds overly harsh … it was well presented, had some very interesting points and ultimately answered the brief, but I think if I was a genuine client, I’d go away thinking there was something in it, but not enough to convince me to choose it.

Saying that, you get 10 points for linking the image with the German national anthem – that was corporate crawly evil genius.


I love Zeljko.

Every time there’s an assignment, I can be sure Zeljko will submit something … and every assignment, I know it will be a submission to remember.

Of course, whether that is always for the right reasons is open for debate, but what I can say is that it always stands out and always with a fair argument behind it.

Now I know the judges will look a bunch of bastards, but the goal of this project was to persuade us as to why we should change our national flag … and as much as we liked the fact Zeljko argued NOT to change anything at all – the fact is the brief wasn’t answered.

Of course advertising needs people who have the courage of their convictions and strong points of view … but this assignment wasn’t about that … it was about the power of persuasion, because with so many companies paralysed by corporate fear, the only way to get them to let go of the bland and boring and embrace something challenging, exciting, powerful and fresh is to be able to explain why something they may initially think sounds mad, is infact the most obvious thing they’ve ever heard.

As for the content of your argument …

Well, like everyone else we thought there were some interesting points in it, but a lot of the ideas felt like they could be appropriate for many countries. [ie: Eco Tourism]

Whilst ‘pure’ is interesting, the issue we had was that it didn’t naturally resonate with us as regards Croatia.

Now that doesn’t mean it’s a wrong or bad thing – especially if the country can back it up – but it just didn’t feel right [mainly because our consciousness is filled with other images of the country, which maybe could have been utilised or included in your overall justification] plus New Zealand would be pretty upset given that has been their positioning for quite a few years.

With this in mind, you get encouragement and praise but a reminder to ANSWER THE BLOODY BRIEF. 🙂


This submission was well presented and showed obvious knowledge of the Indian culture – but it all seemed a bit generic and given there are so many elements within India that could have been used to form the foundation for your argument, we feel it was a bit of a lost opportunity.

Your choice of words were good and expressive and it all led to a specific point of view … however our thoughts were that it didn’t really take us anywhere new and led us to believe you either weren’t really convinced in your own argument or were almost trying to sell the current flag.

The overall approach is right, but we think you need to adopt a more cynical view when evaluating your own arguments because in real life, clients place strategy under far greater scrutiny, especially when they’re trying to be persuaded to do something new and fresh.


How appropriate that this presentation was by someone called Sam representing the USA because the whole approach smacks of the sort of thing that would make Uncle Sam very proud indeed.

To be honest, we have the sneaking suspicion the idea was pre-determined and you made it ‘fit’ … which would be fine, except without any insights/persuasion, you don’t give the judges any reasons why they should believe ‘this is right’.

Like Zeljko, you seem to have missed the point of the assignment … and that’s a shame because with a statement like ‘Even With Freedom We Choose To Be Together’, you have something that could be really interesting.

Whilst we’re in the creative business, it is important to remember we’re in the commercial creative business and so whilst a lot of strategy isn’t worth the powerpoint slides its written on, people still need to ‘feel’ they’re doing the right thing and just hoping to the work will do that for them is either very brave or incredibly naïve.

It can happen – the Tiger Woods ‘hacky-sack’ ad is one example [Woods was doing his ‘balancing trick’ during an interval in the filming of a NIKE commercial. When the creatives saw what he was doing, they immediately put a camera on him and a totally new and unscripted NIKE GOLF commercial was in the can. The fact is, this spot was much, much better than the one they were there to actually make which is why NIKE had no hesitation in authorising its release immediately] – but that most definitely is an exception and you’ll have to go a bit further if you’re going to be able to pull off a similar thing. But I am looking forward to when you do.


To be honest, everyone really liked this assignment.

We felt the information was sharp, interesting and relevant and we especially liked how it linked with the teachings of Islam but not in some contrived or hard-to-believe way.

Interms of visual appeal – it was pretty pants.

Given the content was emotional and delicate and flowed together pretty seamlessly – the actual look & feel was pretty clunky.

Luckily for you the people judging were looking at the persuasiveness of the argument rather than the visual appeal [though you need to improve on that side, for the reasons detailed above] which is why I am very happy to say, you have been chosen as the ‘winner’ of the assignment.

Well done Jacob, good job – now get some design knowledge or at least read of this.

So there you have it, another A[P]SOTW is over … and I hope everyone who took part had fun, got something out of it and feel the comments are fair.

[Feel free to write to me if you want to know more]

The next one should be up in a few months so I hope you all take part and for anyone who wants to check out the submissions for themselves, you can go here.

Well done to Jacob – let me know your address and I’ll get something sent to you.

Have a top weekend all – see you all Monday.

40 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Don Simpson died bloated in the bathroom. Just saying.

Comment by John

It is a great book though.

Comment by John

so did elvis but with the lives they lived its a fucking small price to pay.

give me a heart attack on the shitter after a life of success, fortune, booze and babes over a dignified passing after a life of painful averageness everyday.

im working on it, lol.

fucking good write up campbell. i hope people realise just what theyre getting here because its grade a fucking education.

well done to everyone who had the guts to have a go. take on board the comments and ram them down campbells throat next assignment.

sorry rob but I had to balance my earlier over fucking generous compliment.

standards must be maintained.

Comment by andy@cynic

seems like the link is missing

Comment by peggy

Well done to everyone. Great write up Rob with advice that can be useful to everyone. Now if you’d just put the link up to the assignments, you’d of got an A+.

Comment by Pete

I hope you’ll make it past 52 though Andy.

Comment by John

so does campbell or his livlihood is fucked.

Comment by andy@cynic

It would be a small price to pay for peace Andy – so don’t stay alive on my behalf, ha!

Sorry about the missed link to the assignments, it took me so long to write the bloody thing, I fell asleep before I could check it all … though to be honest, I’m impressed anyone noticed, I’d of thought you’d of all slit your wrists by the time you got to that point of the post.

Anyway, the link is now ‘in’ though please ignore the preso by Jail Chhithian … it has nothing to do with the assignment and quite frankly I have no idea how it got there.

Happy reading.

Comment by Rob

I didn’t know you did these Rob, it’s ace. I liked your point about getting to know the person you’re pitching before entering the room. I coined this phrase a while back, i think it sums it up pretty well: ‘Before you meet someone, Google them until you feel more related to them than actual family members. And then some more. And another time after that’.

It’s a very easy advantage to get, but far few people don’t bother at all. Anyway, this is a fun little initiative, I wish I knew about it.


Comment by rafik

Hi mate … thanks for the comment.

To be honest, just Googling someone isn’t enough … sure it helps and we do our fair-share of that… but its nothing compared to making sure you meet, talk, discuss things face-to-face, which is why we start pretty much every new biz meeting over dinner, because the more informal the situation, the more ‘normal’ the person, ha.

Glad you like the A[P]SOTW … but trust me, you’ll find NP’s and Gareth’s waaaaay better! 🙂

Comment by Rob

I thought this assignment was very interesting Robert and your write up seems very fair with some excellent advice regarding moving ahead.

You should write more about these topics because you have a wealth of experience and knowledge though I did note you failed to mention one of the other tactics you use to obtain business, namely making sure you have business partners with friends in high places.

Next time perhaps?

Comment by Lee Hill

Oh yeah … that as well. Occasionally. 🙂

Comment by Rob

What a great idea. I don’t work in advertising but this is right up my street. Can you tell me when the next one happens because I want to take part. Funny blog too.

Comment by Adam Woodward

Hi Adam … nice to have you pop by.

Thanks for the compliments [though I know a lot of people who’d disagree with you on the humour point] … the A[P]SOTW is currently managed by a few of us and new assignments come out every 3-4 months, so if you pop back around then [I’m assuming there’s little point for you to come back sooner, ha!] there’ll be a link to the next one – which will be done by either the very talented and much smarter NP [] or the equally talented and equally smart Gareth []

Enjoy …

Comment by Rob

I think I might be a bit controvertial here Robert, because I was quite disappointed that the participants only answered the brief.

There was so much potential with this assignment to go over the top and yet everyone (or nearly everyone) just did what they were asked for.

I know this wasn’t a real challenge and that people have busy lives but there’s little place for the jobsworth in advertising, even less so in this economy.

I applaud everyone who participated in the challenge but I suggest next time you don’t just answer the brief, you over answer it because it demonstrates you really believe in your idea and will help you go much further in your career.

Have I made Andrew proud?

Comment by George

Don’t know whether you’ve made Andy/Andrew proud, but you’ve made Marcus because we were literally just talking about that very issue.

You make some excellent points. It’s a little bit harsh given people are doing this in their own time for no other benefit than experience and education … but your points are still very valid, especially because enthusiasm can make a huge difference in the role of persuasion.

Of course some people think enthusiasm means producing lots and lots of ideas without anything anchoring them together … and sometimes that works [and sometimes something good comes out of it] … but I still think if you want someone to buy something new, fresh and challenging, a well argued highest-common-denominator idea, backed with numerous examples of how it can grow and go anywhere is in everyones best interests.

But then I’m an old fart aren’t I!

Great point George … and its nice to see the ‘real’ you is popping out. If people only knew you were really the evil shit and Andy was the nice guy, we’d mess with their minds forever.

Comment by Rob

some nice follow up reading for those who participated in the assignment, or for those who like this sort of thing in general

weakest point is still the human element.

Comment by niko

What are you trying to say Niko?

Are you implying this this assignment was about teaching trickery and half truths?

As I said in the original post, this was not about lying, it was about persuasive arguments … arguments, based on fundamental facts [hence the involvement of Lonely Planet in the judging] that would allow a situation to be reframed so the target audience would choose your [brave, new, fresh] idea over the usual [boring, conservative, bland] alternative.

Now you could argue that still is about deception, but no more than someone who dresses smartly for a date but wears week old pants every other day of the week.

As I wrote in the original post, I wanted people to get inspiration from barristers, not conmen and confidence tricksters. Now I appreciate you – and others – could say “what’s the difference”, but I’m talking about the lawyers that I grew up with … the ones who still lived by a code of honour, ethics and a sense of justice … not the wankers who do all they can to never solve the problem because that way they can get more money out of it.

But even more disturbing is that I’ve just seen the picture that heads this post features no other than Geoffry lying, thieving Archer … which basically undermines this whole comment and my entire post.

Social engineering – like most things – can be used or abused. The purpose of this assignment was most definitely and obviously, the former.

Comment by Rob

fuck me. george goes arnie. campbell goes bitchy and i go pansy. what the fuck is going on?

its fucking swine flu isnt it. bloody pigs

Comment by andy@cynic

Nice work Jacob.

Comment by Liam McCloud

Allow me to retort.

Having done the assignment and hopefully having found inspiration in barristers with honour (who construct cases on real evidence), this link to social engineering served as a way for them kids to see the application of the craft of persuasion (a part of the assignment, not the whole assignment, but still a part) from a different p.o.v.

Like u say, SE can be used or abused, so it is up to those who are exposed to it, to make up their minds on how they go about the stuff.

Furthermore from a style point of view, it is usefull to know how conmen work. Why? because well the work they put in works. Fox tv, Eastern europe in the ’90’s, the success of David Blain/Derren Brown. Mass hysteria/propaganda and conwork still work.

Better to know about it so you CAN tell the difference.

Looking at SE from an objective point of view and learning about persuasion techniques is not a crime nor should it carry the implicit label of immorality and if it is and does, well would all visual artist and art directors and agency creative return their copies of Leni Riefenstahl’s movies and stop using her techniques from now on?

So how one looks at the link is how one is a person. I found usefull stuff in it.

Do I go around hacking systems because of it? no.

Plus explain to me the difference of reading High Concept and Kevin Mitchnick? both have valuable lessons, both could be argued are being taught by bad people (sure one is a convicted criminal and the other merely a drug and alcholol user with a bad temper, but where do you draw the line at acceptable creative input?).

If them kids read into this link that it is ok to go and steal and cheat, then the late great simpson will tell them that it is ok to abuse and use other people to get ahead.

And if that is the case, we got some other issues to adress first don’t we?

there is the letter of the law and there is the spirit of the law..and the spirit in which this link was intented, was not malicious towards you, the assignment them kids or even fucking barristers.

The fact you thought that, suprises me

Comment by niko

dont take it personally niko, the big girls blouse has got his frillies in a twist.

the criminal mind can be a devious and fucking clever one and to make campbell really squirm i suggest you point out he recently ran some client brainstorms with an invited pornographer, convicted fraudster and magician.

stick with me kid, ill look after you.

Comment by andy@cynic

excellent!! great feedback wrap-up rob, and that bit about presentations at the start.. awesome – i’ll be taking some of that advice with me, thanks very much.

well done to all involved.

and george, i think i like where you’re going with this one, although i’m a little scared at where it could end up. are you sure you’re not an anarcho-syndicalist underneath all that fatherly austerity?

Comment by lauren

bloddy feisty around here today isn’t it?

Comment by Marcus

hes a mean, miserable, hard ass fucker under that exterior lauren. unless the wife is about. then hes back to “auntie”

Comment by andy@cynic

great isnt it. pity i have to fucking go.

Comment by andy@cynic

Thanks to all the judges for their time and to you for the write up Rob.

The results are not all flattering for ppl, but revealing. And they will definitely help to improve presentation techniques.

Also, a big plus of the A[P]SOTW is that – different from real life, where you are usually left [if so] only knowing about the companies people are pitching for – you can see the actual presentations/work and the different approaches everyone took.

Applause to all of us participants for taking part. And congratulations to Jacob.

Comment by

i hate a gracious loser

Comment by andy@cynic

andy dear, don’t you have somewhere to be?

Comment by lauren

You can only lose if you are fighting in the fist place. And hating is not good for the cardiovascular system. It heightens blood pressure.

Comment by

i do lauren. will you be meeting me at the airport or shall i come straight over?

alright ladies. you are a lady arent you you might have a name like a fucking terminator character but you write like someone who smells roses, ill leave you till monday. dont weep too much

Comment by andy@cynic

i’ll meet you at the airport and save you the cab fare – cheapskate.

Comment by lauren

Hilarious you said I was writing like someone smelling roses. I did. Got some smelly ones as a present a few days ago. The color is a bit gay too.
To be saved from weeping or being called a lady, I don’t think I will make it Monday.

Comment by

For the record, I did indeed get my knickers in a twist over Niko’s comment … so ignore me, but then I think most of you do that anyway, ha.

Comment by Rob

Thanks for the feedback rob!will wait for next time when this researcher can live the life of a planner vicariously:).Agree with feedback,but did not get the ‘over-answer’ the brief comment…Please do elaborate.

Comment by Akshay

Hi mate … glad you understand where we’re coming from with the feedback.

I think what George [and Marcus] are saying is that on top of answering the fundamental needs of the brief [in this case, creating a powerful and relevant argument why a country should adopt ‘the birds’ as their national flag] it might of been good if someone then took it further and explained how this thinking could translate into the lyrics of their national anthem, how it could be adopted by the countries national ‘awards’ etc etc.

Basically show both the enthusiasm and the breadth and depth of the thinking of the idea … though I appreciate that wasn’t what I asked for, though everyone else should appreciate that’s not what you ever really get asked for, it’s about what you’re willing to do.

Comment by Rob

Aaah! imaginary bulb lights up now….

Comment by Akshay

Good post, the presenting information was really useful 🙂

Comment by Shib

“To be honest, we have the sneaking suspicion the idea was pre-determined and you made it ‘fit’”

i am an american, but let’s not be so suspicious.. lol.. thanks for the feedback though

i could have benefited from highlighting i was getting at state sovereignty (just ask texas about it) but i’m a sucker for clean presentations

Comment by sam

[…] Earlier this week, Gareth posted the latest fast strategy assignment. And it’s a good one. These are never easy, but always result in some great entries and even get some new talent exposure. For reference, check out the last assignment and see the feedback judges provided. […]

Pingback by new assignment: account planning school of the web at M!

Leave a Reply