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

It’s Not Just What You Say, It’s How You Say It …

I have always loved pitching.

I love the drama, the nervousness, the tension, the creativity.

I also love that it’s a chance to reinvent how the agency is seen every single time.

Because of this, I’ve always embraced using a pitch to try new ways to present your work.

I’ve done a lot of stuff over the years.

Some has – without doubt – been an unmittigated disaster, but far more often, it’s been successful.

Not because we’ve used gimmicks or theatre, but we’ve found an interesting way to get our point across without [hopefully] repeating what every other agency they’ve seen has said.

Some of my favourites have been when we won the launch of Disneyland Shanghai when we were the 18th agency to pitch and I had inadvertently insulted the head of procurement when I accidentally wrote ‘retards’ instead of ‘regards’.

Mind you, they got their own back when they fired us after 2 years – and just before some truly amazing work was going to be made.

Then there was the time we won the SONY global business based on a photo I’d taken of a sign they had in their HQ.

It was an arrow pointing to the right to show you where reception was … and I used that as the basis for our pitch which basically said SONY spent so much time looking at what their competitors were doing, they’ve forgotten the need to forge their own path.

And then there was our winning pitch to Virgin when they were going to start their F1 team.

The reality was they were unlikely to ever win a race – or maybe even a point – given the gulf in investment and technology between them and their competitors.

So our strategy was to model themselves on tennis player Anna Kournikova … because even though she never won a grand slam, she was one of the most recognised, supported and wealthy tennis players in the tournaments.

That was fun.

But recently I found a photo that reminded me of a time we were pitching for BEATS by Dre.

I was at Wieden Shanghai and we had a meeting to talk about the China market.

Instead of a presentation about culture or music or fashion, I had one slide that said, “If You Don’t Define Who You Are, Someone Else Will’ and then I gave them all a set of the fake headphones that are the photo at the top of this post.

And we won.

Some say what we did was ballsy … but it wasn’t really.

When you realise the client is going to be sitting through a bunch of meetings that often say the same thing – or worse, just talk about the agency rather than the client – you realise having a strong POV that can form the foundation for work that will resonate with culture is the most sensible thing you can do.

Of course it takes just as long to come up with that as it does writing the 1000 page decks of boredom, but when it comes to delivery … it not only helps you stand out, it helps ensure they remember your point of view rather than get confused with countless pitches that talk a lot but say nothing.

23 Comments so far
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BrIlliant. Still not as good as the blue leg humans for Levi’s or the Egg Bank pitch, but brilliant.

Comment by Bazza

Blue legs was fun but we didn’t win. Egg was just wonderful insanity. Looking back at it now, I can’t believe we did it. I’m so glad we did.

Comment by George

Levi’s was one of my first pitches at cynic. I thought you were all mad but it also reinforced I had made the right decision. I also think if we had the same situation occur, we would do the same thing again. Some tweaks, but generally the same. I miss those days.

Comment by Pete

Egg was arguably more mad – and we won that. I’m assuming the LEVI’S painting is still in storage, which means George, Andy and I are still paying for it …

Bloody hell, that means it is the most expensive pitch ever.

Comment by Rob

is there no end to how much money you steal from me campbell?

Comment by andy@cynic

When you next go go China, please pick me up some Dr Dry headphones.

Comment by Bazza

That’s a novel way to resign Baz.

Comment by George

This was horrible to find but I rest my case.

Comment by Bazza


Comment by Pete

Hahaha … fool.

Comment by Rob

I don’t know when that will next happen Baz, nor do I know if they still sell them – but if they do, I promise I’ll get you a pair just for you. Then we can call it evens on the freebies. Hahaha.

Comment by Rob

One of the many things you taught me was the art of the pitch. I know you will say you were taught by Chris J, but to change pitch meeting approach based on where you are in the order of agencies is something I had never considered before. This Beats example is a perfect example of this. You didn’t change the strategy, just how you would present it. It has proven to be a very valuable lesson for me over the years.

Comment by George

That was when I discovered planning was much more than just identifying and solving a client challenge.

Comment by Pete

Definitely Chris Jaques. Best pitch leader – and leader, to be fair – I ever saw in action. I think I told you that the first time I was in a pitch with him, I had to tell myself not to clap after his part of the presentation because he was sooooo good. Hahahaha.

Comment by Rob

Chris was the aromatherapy guy wasn’t he?

Comment by George

Yep. It was literally one of the most amazing things I’d ever seen at the time.

Comment by Rob

so youve all fucking conveniently forgotten it was my work that made you more cash than you fucking deserve rather than your planning bollocks. the lot of you are pricks. and so are levis because blue legs was fucking genius.

Comment by andy@cynic

Smart stuff. But I think we need details of the unmitigated disasters as well.

Comment by John

Wouldn’t you just … hahaha.

Comment by Rob

Survival bias.

Comment by John

Big fan of action…

Most of the time one is told to stay away from action. I remember when working on identity design projects for few startups from Silicon Valley, we literally took rough pencil sketches & showed it to founders ( off course each of sketch had it’s own story).

They founders & Co founders were immediately able to relate to the sketches & point us in the right direction.

Comment by Sid

Everyone wants to be so slick … and I get it, you want the client to understand the care, craft and attention that goes into what you do … but more and more agencies are relying on that approach than having an idea that will actually drive change and that’s where it’s getting scary,

I’m a big fan of the tissue meeting … but some agencies are even making those slick which is bollocks because you make the team waste their time on trying to make a deck look good for a meeting when the time could be better spent making the ideas/strat sharp,

Again, the focus on speed to drive value is a dangerous one – especially when that is being more highly valued than the actual creativity.

Comment by Rob

Yes. 100% yes.

Comment by Pete

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