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

Light … Camera … Impress: It’s The APSOTW Assignment …
April 30, 2010, 5:23 am
Filed under: Advertising [Planning] School On The Web

When Russell started this ‘school’, he ensured there was a lot of variety in his challenges because he believed [and I presume still does] that modern communication requires people who are creative generalists – not just specialists.

Gareth, Andrew and I have tried to continue that tradition [but if we haven’t, don’t tell us, we’re sensitive little souls] however we are also conscious that we don’t want to stray too far away from the fundamental reasons A[P]SOTW was set up in the first place.

With all that in mind, this assignment has been developed to test a number of things that are vital in the modern world of communication:




Originally I was going to set you the objective of protecting the revenue of the increasingly irrelevant Yellow Pages ‘book’ – however I’ve decided to save that for another day because I want us to focus on another important tool in the planners arsenal, the ability to present.

I’m not talking about writing powerpoint decks – we’ve touched on that in previous assignments and I wrote a post about that a while back – I’m talking about the physical ‘pitch’ presentation of which these 2 are great examples:



[If the clip doesn’t work, click here]

The reason I’ve shown you these 2 videos is even though one is talking about something new [not just literally, but interms of tech] and the other is aiming to make people look at something old, with fresh and excited eyes … they both engage, excite and entice because the presenter has the ability to take the audience on a journey where they get emotionally entwined with the thinking, the idea, the benefit and the occasion.

This is way more than just being entertaining or gimmicky, it’s about purposeful inspiration … which is why I believe they are both great examples of my beloved [and BBH developed] ethos of ‘don’t sell, get people to buy’.

So what’s the actual assignment …

Well it’s basically a pitch presentation … except your job is not just to develop a strategy and idea to solve a specified problem, but to pitch it to the judges as if you were in the room and doing it in the flesh.

Look I know for many people, public speaking is absolutely terrifying … but it is incredibly important … not just to win business, but to be able to convey your message at conferences, meetings or just in life – so even if the thought of a ‘live presentation’ scares the living bejesus out of you, I encourage you to have a go and I assure you all feedback will be constructive and take into account your particular circumstances.

[Don’t panic, we’re not looking for presentations with uber-slick camera shots and lighting, afterall as much as both the videos above were directed by highly paid professionals calculating every shot and angle, at their heart it’s just a person with a screen taking an audience on a journey of emotional & commercial value]

Now before I get to the challenge you’ll be answering in your presentation, I just want to talk about the role of pitches.

As far as I am concerned, most pitches are won/lost before any presentation takes place.

The ability to schmooze, knobble, manipulate and emotionally ‘connect’ are quite often far more effective at winning business than a great idea presented flawlessly.

Then there’s the situation where a client ignores the quality of the idea and just chooses an agency based on an execution or some gimmick.

As I’ve said, I’m not into ‘flash’ or ‘gimmicks’ … but as much as many pitch presentations are quite often a bit of a sham, there are occasions where what you say and how you present will make a massive difference to the outcome [excluding the millions of times where you’ll have to present an idea/view to a client/colleague] so being able to present to an audience in an engaging and captivating manner – so by the time you’ve finished, they’re believers and followers rather than passive spectators – is unbelievably valuable.

So let’s get to what the business issue is we need you to get your head around shall we?


“How can ‘Head & Shoulders’ shampoo be seen as the brand men [18-35] should use every day, rather than just on the occasions they think they have a dandruff issue”

That’s it … a one line uber-basic, uber-ambigious brief.

I’ve not done this because I can’t be arsed to write something more complicated … or I don’t know how to write something more complicated … I’ve done it because [1] often that is what many pitch briefs ultimately come down to, with 800 pages of irrelevant brand ego waffle shoved inbetween and [2] I want to keep if fairly basic because not only do you have to work out what to do, you have to work out how you’re going to make us choose you in just 10 minutes as if you were in the room with us.

[Saying that, it would be good if you could develop ideas that go beyond ‘Dandruff Stops You Getting Laid’… however if you must go down that route, make sure your thinking, evidence and presentation lifts it out of the gutter, ha!]


Judging Criteria:

Quality of thinking

Quality of strategy/core idea

Clarity of presentation

Infectiousness of idea

Magnetism of presentation


As usual, I’ve asked a bunch of people to help me judge this and they are:

Chris, Regional CEO of M&C Saatchi Asia
[best new biz guy I’ve ever seen – let alone worked with – in my entire life]

Stephen, a leading UK based barrister
[a master in the art of persuasion – and in matters more important than marketing]

Dominic, lead planner on NIKE [China] at Wieden & Kennedy

Jonah, venture capitalist at ThinkorSwim
[gets pitched to 200 times a year. Every year]

Freddie, planning director at BBH

Rebecca, screen writer at Dreamworks
[also worked for ‘High Concept’ pitch masters, Don Simpson & Jerry Bruckheimer]

Gareth, God at Goodby’s

Andrew, God of planning [& DigForFire/DMG], swimming & cooking

Errrrm, me

Four Rules:

1/ We just want to hear about the idea – we don’t need to see other materials unless you feel it necessary or desirable to show.

2/ No video is allowed to be more than 10 minutes in duration.
[You can submit this via a file or on Youtube, but if the latter, please let us know if you are OK with us pointing people to it after the judging has taken place]

3/ No documentation is allowed to be submitted to support your video presentation.

4/ As much there will be the temptation to take the piss, this is serious and we want you to present as if you were there in the room with us.

Right, that’s all the judging bits over … and to prove I/we are not complete and utter bastards, here’s some links that might give you some tips if at this point you’re in ‘blank mind hell.

How to present like Steve Jobs



Entries to be sent to this address by midnight GMT, May 22nd

Any problems/questions/issues – drop me a line, but most of all enjoy it – take our minds on a journey of discovery and adventure but make sure it has substance and logic because great business people only sign on the line when it makes business sense to them, not just emotional.

Oh, and whilst I said this assignment was to help planners develop and sell better work, it is not limited to them … infact I encourage anyone who wants to have a go to enter, because not only is there no ‘wrong answer’ [so you don’t have to worry about looking silly, which you wouldn’t anyway] the fact is there are many situations in life where having the ability to persuade someone to think your way would be useful – especially where debt collectors are concerned, ha!

42 Comments so far
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that is a grade a fucking assignment and write up campbell. good fucking work.

how the fuck did you get stephen, jonah and heavenly bec to agree to judge? they charge a fucking fortune just to let some poor bastard buy them an american gdp priced dinner. obviously im even more expensive which must be why you didnt ask me to take part and filled it up with super cheap ad fuckers instead.

good assignment i hope nerves or laziness dont stop shitloads of people taking up this op.

ps) is this some ruse to sell the entries to one of those “funniest videos” shows? devious genius.

Comment by andy@cynic

You’ll be otherwise engaged when the judging happens and you know how much I respect your personal time.

Comment by Rob

I believe it’s because they like him Andy.

Excellent assignment, the video pitch is a great idea and your background, advice and choice of reference materials are great to read and view.

I look forward to seeing what people come up with for the brand challenge and the presentation. It’s tough but it’s a great chance to impress and learn from superb and talented individuals. Good luck to everyone.

Comment by George

they like him when they get paid by him you mean. mark my fucking words theyll be 3 expensive dinner expense claims on our desks after the judgings taken place.

Comment by andy@cynic

I gave them your credit card number.

Comment by Rob

Making your teacher fantasies come true then Rob?

Comment by Billy Whizz

That’s quite a challenge, but then there is little benefit succeeding at something easy.

Nicely put together Robert, good luck to all.

Comment by Lee Hill

This is a huge challenge. Especially for those of us who have “hair issues”.

Comment by Marcus

We choose to look like that Marcus …

Comment by Rob

I didn’t. It just fell out.

Comment by Marcus

You know it’s really hilarious that you consider that one liner uber-basic and uber-ambiguous!!

It’s so much better then the briefs my client give. The worse is when you get briefed like “Hey help me sell this XXX” then when you present to them “Ummmm I wanted you to sell this to these people” why didn’t you say so earlier?!!!!! waste of time.

Comment by SL

Good assignment, great response idea. I look forward to seeing the results.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

All good, and don’t think I didn’t notice that the other judges are Gods of work related stuff while I’m the God of extra curricular hobbies.
As someone that had to make himself adequate at presenting, this assignment is especially supported by the North. My advice? Love what you’re presenting, treat you’re audience like any target audience, know what buttons to push….and tell stories.

Comment by northern

Stop being a soppy twat …

You are god of planning annnnnnnnd extra curricular stuff – it says so in black and white. Which means you’re even better.

That’s mighty good advice there Northern, I do hope we get some entries, ha!

Comment by Rob

That told me too.
Wonder what Sacrum would do?

Comment by northern

Sacrum would have fun with it.

Comment by Marcus

Will Sacrum have a go?

[I may have to give some of the judges a brief background on him though 😉 ]

Comment by Rob

No. No, Sacrum will leave this to the others.

Comment by Marcus

I’m worried there may be no others!

Comment by Rob

don’t be silly.

Comment by Marcus

Isn’t that part of my DNA?

Comment by Rob

I think representatives from all your offices should be required to enter.

Comment by John Dodds

Too often, judging criteria leave out your last two. In pitches where “quality of thinking” is judged based on a micro-managed 20-point checklist, infectiousness and magnetism can carry the day. 🙂 (waves hi to Rob and Chris who are the only two people she knows on that list)

Comment by Leigh

i can understand acknowledging chris, but rob? dont you give a fuck about your cred leigh?

Comment by andy@cynic

Some of us are too far gone to be saved, Andy. +.+

Comment by Leigh

this be a tough assignment, damn you! 🙂

Comment by Jacob

I’m just glad it would appear you’re doing it. I live in total fear no one is going to take part.

Comment by Rob

‘appear’. yes, ive got random notes and vague ideas, nothing concrete. hopefully aside from the judges feedback you could give a mini guide/how to on how you would approch the assignment/problem

Comment by Jacob

Cool … but I won’t do that till after the submissions are in if that’s OK.

Comment by Rob

i concur, wouldnt want to make the assignment any easier.

Comment by Jacob

It’s not that … it’s because my advice might be viewed as crap by the judges, ha.

Comment by Rob

its a link to some planner who has completely ignored the brief and written their pitch as a blog post. i dont want to sound negative because campbell will have a shit attack but i wouldnt give them the business off it. doesnt actually tell me what i should do, why it would work and why h&s can say it. but what the fuck do i know, im a creative fucking monkey.

Comment by andy@cynic

just seen the poor fuck has only been a planner for 3 weeks. he gets forgiven and encouraged but ill leave the confidence boosting to campbell so he can practice his mit teaching skills.

Comment by andy@cynic

dont worry tom (if youre the young planner in question) this way campbell can give you some feedback, hes quite good like that. of course id give you my fucking extensive and brilliant and valuable views but campbell deemed me surplus to judging requirements. wanker. (thats him, not you)

Comment by andy@cynic

good job you dont work for the fucking cia then tom.

ill make sure campbell sees your pitch so he can give you his views and advice. whatever he tells you, do the opposite and youll be just fucking fine.

Comment by andy@cynic

Surplus to judging requirements? What a travesty.

Comment by John

Hey Rob,

Best wishes for your birthday and journey to China. Once you’re in china, will you still be using any of your current email addresses (Sunshine, M&C, etc..)

Just curious to know, that list you gave me of people to befriend in a new country, are there any specific things you would be looking to learn from them?

Vietnam is a crazy place! Fun, but crazy. Still getting use to this huge divide between ‘expats’ and locals.. I havent been anywhere like it.

Comment by Jacob

Hi mate …

rob at cynical-world dot com will still work as should my google-lab address so stay in touch.

As for what to find out, the way I always start these conversations is getting an understanding of what are the countries dirty little secrets, after that, everything else should just flow.

Let me know how you go and thanks for the best wishes.

Comment by Rob

got an example of a country’s dirty little secret?

Comment by Jacob

Singapore’s Governments public values are different to their behaviour where ensuring continued foreign investment is concerned.

ie: Orchard Towers high prominence.

Comment by Rob

alright i understand now..Singapore Flyer, F1, etc.

Comment by Jacob

[…] Rob Campbell (now head of planning at Wieden+Kennedy’s Shanghai office) posted an “assignment” on his blog. He and some other account planning types, including Russell Davies and Gareth […]

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