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

The Only Thing We Have Are Our Standards …
July 6, 2012, 6:02 am
Filed under: Comment

A couple of nights ago, I was putting the finishing touches to a pitch deck we were writing.

Around me were 3 of my planning colleagues, an account director and an account manager.

Having finally put it to bed – which is where we should all have been given it was 1:30am – we were going through it in its entirety.

Maybe it was because it was late …

Maybe it was because I/we had been too close to it for the past few weeks …

Maybe it was because I am a bit of a bastard …

… but I read it and pronounced,

“It bores me”.

Tom – one of my colleagues – asked me to repeat what I said.

“It bores me”, I replied … before adding, “I should be feeling excited – what we want to do is exciting – but I’m bored”.

There was obvious deflation in the room – mainly because of the time – but one by one, everyone acknowledged what we had written hadn’t captured either the heart of what we wanted to say, or the level of provocation we needed to convey.

I should point out this was not their fault – it was all mine.

I’d planned the deck.

I’d written the deck.

I’d reviewed the deck.

But here’s the thing, knowing when to call yourself out is important.

Sure, the deck had all the information in it we wanted to convey … sure, it clearly explained our point of view and the idea we were recommending … sure, it would still [probably] be better than a lot of other agencies proposals … sure, the client would probably love it … but that’s not the point, because it wasn’t good enough.

For us.



Please don’t think I am trying to big myself/ourselves up – far from it – however if you’re not excited by what you’ve put together, why the hell do you think a client will be?

Sure, that isn’t always the case – but if you can look in the mirror and think you did a good job, that’s a damn sight better than having that nagging feeling you didn’t present [or won’t present] your case as well as you could have, even if you end up being successful.

I should point out that what happened next made me feel very, very humble indeed.

Within a few minutes, we had pinpointed the issue and I said to the guys that we could finish it the next morning – but they said no.

They felt we had to nail it while it was still in our head … while our disappointment was still in the air … so we sat down and rewrote the thing.

The whole thing.

And you know what, it flowed.

It flowed but with bite.

And we still felt that way when we read it the next day … so all that leaves us to do is present the bugger and then hear from the client whether we’re been a bunch of delusional fools or a gang whose standards aren’t standard.

52 Comments so far
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Rob… Of course it bored you… It’s a fucking DECK!!! Decks are created by cretins, to be enjoyed by cretins (Nothing personal, mate!!!) And don’t give me that shit… The next day “It flowed with bite.” Even if it bit your dick… It’s still a fucking DECK… Start doing something worthwhile for a living. Try advertising. I can’t wait to read the comments on this… You fucking asked for it.
Cheers/George”AdScam” Parker

Comment by adscamgeorge

The last think W+K want him doing is advertising. Decks are just fine. No one reads those.

Comment by DH

That’s what we used to do with him.

Comment by Billy Whizz

All good point George. I will go and sit on the naughty step.

Comment by Rob

Billy tried that once. He thought it would turn into an orgy because it was so late and people had lost their minds. He was wrong. People despised him more than ever. Sure the other people in the room felt that way towards you too. Just saying.

Comment by DH

The only people who hate me are the husbands of the supermodels I screw.

Comment by Billy Whizz

you mean you screw them with your timeshare fucking brochure because you sure as fucking shit couldnt do it any other fucking way.

Comment by andy@cynic

As for looking in the mirror. I don’t do that any more. I have the picture in the attic with the snakes growing out of my fucking eyes. Anyway, Kate thinks I’m Loverrrrlllly! And Hitler’s still a fan. And I’ll bet Neil Christie doesn’t waste his time on fucking DECKS! Oh… And are you going to tell us if the DECK won the pitch?

Comment by adscamgeorge

i still like you george. or at least put up with you. at least youre not a fucking planner.

Comment by andy@cynic

I still think you’re hot George – but that’s only because it allows me to then think I’ve not got a face like a dropped pie either.

Comment by Rob

To be fair George, Rob does great decks. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but they’re nothing like the 150 page powerpoint boredom other planners and agencies put together. I can say that from personal experience.

Pitch decks, scripts, TVC’s. It doesn’t matter. Your point about standards is an important one and I think is the reason why W+K are so good. It’s not about whether it’s good enough to do what it has to do, it’s about whether you guys believe in it. That’s the difference.

Some may say that leads to inefficiencies, but W+K’s record will prove otherwise.

Comment by Pete

I’ll accept they’re pretty good, but I’m sure that has something to do with everyone else’s being so shit.

Comment by DH

Had a look at some old ones. I’ll accept they’re good. And short. Which is the real reason they’re so good.

Comment by DH

W+K is a great agency, ‘cos it does great DECK’s… Next time I see Dan Wieden I’ll tell him you said that. He’ll send the Portland Ninjas to fuck you over… ‘Cos no one expects the Portland Ninjas.

Comment by adscamgeorge

That’s what planners like to think. But planners think TED is youporn.

Comment by Billy Whizz

I just saw TED described as the Urban Outfitters of ideas – that made me laugh. But then I have very low standards.

Comment by John

more like the fucking hallmark of ideas.

Comment by andy@cynic

thank fuck for that 1000 page deck by a dan wieden minion or nike would never have bought “just fucking do it” as a line. fuck w and ks fucking brilliance, the real star is the powerpoint creator who beats the audience into fucking submission so w+k can do whatever the fuck they like. wheres the fucking cannes award for that fucker eh?

Comment by andy@cynic

To avoid being called a creep, I should add that you are very pedantic and painful where presentations are concerned. It’s all worth it in the end, but getting there can be torture.

Comment by Pete

Understatement of the decade.

Comment by DH

its called only fucking child syndrome.

Comment by andy@cynic

It’s not painful and pedantic, it’s …

OK, OK … it’s painful and pedantic. Which is mainly why I didn’t make of you fuckers have to do them. Ha.

Comment by Rob

you did it so wed leave you alone and you could use your fucking impact wanker font. i saw through your fucking pathetic tricks campbell.

Comment by andy@cynic

When I used to work on IBM for Ogilvy, you would acquire a DECK every meeting you attended… You would take it back to your office and place it on your STACK-O-DECKS. When the STACK-O-DECKS got too tall, it would topple over. When the cleaning lady came round at night you would give her five dollars to take them away without any douchenozzles (planners) seeing the fruit of their loins being turned into land fill. I honestly believe NO ONE READS FUCKING DECKS. But, that’s just my opinion… And what the fuck do I know? Oh, that’s right… Everything.

Comment by adscamgeorge

Far from it for me to ruin everyone’s fun but as a client I can assure you, “decks” play an important role in the communication process. Of course they are not the pivotal element, but a deck that clearly and succinctly explains the opportunity ensures the agency is afforded the chance to make the work they are so excited by.

That might make tragic reading for some, but it is sadly the way of the modern world. For the record, Robert’s presentations were clear, succinct and thoroughly entertaining (from content an presentation perspectives) and never once felt like the sort of deck some are referring to.

I will beat a hasty retreat now.

Comment by Lee Hill

Quite right Lee, but I wonder if you share my two concerns. Firstly that decks have beome the default and are created too often and, more importantly, that this can sometimes place a premium on decck creation and presentation at the expense of the best ideas?

Comment by John

I would not read those John. I hasten to add the author of such said documents, would never have the opportunity to try and do that to me again.

Comment by Lee Hill

Quite right Lee.

Comment by George

1. you preferred georges presentations.
2. you had to for “political” fucking reasons.
3. we didnt have to do any fucking presentations, we only did it to make everyone feel better that we had political fucking influence and we could get anyone in our way sent to the fucking salt mines.

or china.

the fact we did so fucking many for you lee is a massive bastard compliment. what isnt, is you giving out freebies to campbell and the best part of fuck all to me.

Comment by andy@cynic

I consider myself chastised and fortunate all at the same time.

Comment by Lee Hill

too fucking right you do.

Comment by andy@cynic

Thank you Lee. You are my Knight in shining armour.

Comment by Rob

now you know how i fucking felt campbell. not when i read your decks, when i fucking talked to you.

Comment by andy@cynic

There is nothing wrong with writing presentations. Similar to making money, the issue is how you do it, why you do it and what you do with it once completed that is the key.
My rule is simple. If it makes people want to read the next page, then it is good. If it makes people want to jump to the end, then it is bad. Robert’s presentations are always page turners and always for the right reason. I’m still jealous of that ability.

Comment by George

theres absofuckinglutely nothing for you to be jealous of campbell for. in my eyes youre both equals. neither of you have any fucking redeeming features.

Comment by andy@cynic

if you got your fucking mate of big bastard influence to order lee to give me campbells fucking freebies then youd be a little fucking bit better than campbell in my eyes. nows your chance. grasp the bastard.

Comment by andy@cynic

Of course, having friends in high places with lots of influence tends to transcend any presentation skill.

I know which one I had. Ha.

Comment by Rob

I knew when I was writing this I’d cop the abuse I’ve had – but not only is that something I’d expect, I also sort-of deserve it, because the last thing I wanted to do was give the impression that a presentation is more important than the work.

Hopefully over the years, I’ve explained how much I think a planner needs to be evaluated on ‘creative output’ not ‘presentation/intellectual wank input’.

That said, as Lee and George have stated, a presentation does have a role so for the record, let me explain why I write them … with the caveat being they don’t actually have to be “written”, they just have to achieve the sole goal they are created for.

In essence, my job is to do 4 things.

1. Help clients ‘see/get excited by’ the opportunity they have for their business/

2. Encourage everyone to think bigger – both in terms of what can be done, what should be done, what needs to be done.

3. Protect/defend the intelligence of the audience at all costs.

4. Protect/defend the quality of creativity at all costs.

That’s it.

In my mind, my job doesn’t stop when I’ve written the brief, that is where it starts – and if it means I have to write 10 documents to achieve one of the goals above, I’ll do it.

But at the end of the day, the key to writing a deck is not to try and sell [oversell?], it’s to get them to buy – which means [1] changing the perspective of your approach to be about them, not you, [2] finding out what the real triggers are, not relying on abstract data to demonstrate a point they don’t believe or want and [3] presenting to someone who can say “yes”, not someone who then has to ‘pass it up the line’.

Comment by Rob

i fucking hate doing this, but your 1-4 points are why i could tolerate working with you rather than those other fucking planner types who thought they just had to write some nonsensical bollocks on a brief and then fuck off.

i kept saying to them they could skip the brief writing part. cocks.

Comment by andy@cynic

So that’s what you were trying to do. Didn’t work.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Maybe the answer is to stop calling it a DECK. It’s rather an old fashioned clunky word anyway. Perhaps something very “now” like “CURATED ARTISANAL HOLISTIC TOUCH POINTS!” Man, you could be a fucking star at TED with something like that.

Comment by adscamgeorge

I have banned the word ‘curation’ from this office – surely that counts for something.

Comment by Rob

Old joke from the late, lamented John Turnbull:

Q: How can you tell the planner at a pitch?
A: He’s the one the rest of the team are kicking.”

Comment by Ian Gee

I’ll make sure no one in my office sees this Ian!

Comment by Rob

I’ve skipped a few comments so apologies if I repeat anyone elses comments.

Decks can be very useful and extremely interesting, it’s just that they are done badly. To me saying all decks are bad is like saying all DM is boring.

Sure a lot of the time there are more interesting ways of getting a message across, but the convenience of the format is sometimes much more of a help than we think.

For me decks are good tool for getting you to cut things down and summise them. The worst ones are where people think they have to fill every space with text and make 20 points per slide.

As for the word deck, I rarely use it (just have in context here). I prefer to use words that are relevant to the purpose this particular set of slides is being used for.

If it doubt pretend you are in 1965 and your charts are slides that cost money to make. Think, if this slide was costing me £50, would I include it?

Comment by Rob Mortimer (Not a fake Andy)

Oh and well done for having the balls to say what you’d done was wrong at 1.30am. If only more people could admit when they do something and it isn’t right.

Comment by Rob Mortimer (Not a fake Andy)

balls. more like saying what every other fucker was thinking.

Comment by andy@cynic

That almost certainly true, but how many planners (or creatives for that matter) do you know who late on in the day would say “I don’t think this is right” to their own work?

Comment by Rob Mortimer (Not a fake Andy)

Hi Rob,
Did you win the pitch?

Comment by Big (now smaller) Bob Houldsworth

Haven’t had it yet. But it’ll happen very soon and then we’ll find out in undeniable, high-definition clarity.

Comment by Rob

Sometimes the best ideas come at 1:30 in the morning when you are delusional. Let us know if you win the pitch.

Comment by Christina Cruz

[…] If You Can Look In The Mirror, You Are Doing Something […]

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