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Pitch please

  • Published at 05:32 pm October 25th, 2017
Pitch please
Like most advertising professionals today, the first thing I did when asked to write this rather interesting piece was contact our Market Research team. We did a quick meeting, met the media guys, got a hold of all my clients and made them fill out a detailed questionnaire on what they like to see from us in a pitch. Like most advertising professionals today, the first thing I did when asked to write this rather interesting piece was contact our Market Research team. We did a quick meeting, met the media guys, got a hold of all my clients and made them fill out a detailed questionnaire on what they like to see from us in a pitch. Pitch please, not in the time of Google. Like most normal people, I read a bunch of articles that I found online and watched a couple of Mad Men episodes to really get into the mood. Had whiskey been legal, I would have stared into my glass like Don Draper and probably been able to write the most fascinating piece on what makes a great pitch.
When you’re going to pitch for the account, you’re going to have to prove to the client that you’re in it for the long term
A pitch is like a Bengali wedding proposal. In case you haven’t seen one, the groom’s family takes sweets, well-spoken relatives and token grandparent to win over the girl’s family. In this brief exchange, what you wear, the way you speak, how sweet you are to senile grandparent and how much you eat at the table are all equally important. When you’re going to pitch for the account, you’re going to have to prove to the client that you’re in it for the long term. Not only do you have excellent ideas and great “cha-nashta” at the office, you and your team have to become an extension of the brand’s Marketing team. When pitching your big idea, understand that a client has probably spoken to several other agencies all trying to convince them that their “big idea" is sent directly by the big creative director in the sky. So how well did you understand the brief? Clients usually tell you what they’re looking for. I’ll give you a couple of examples. Client: Bhai we want a new commercial for our brand and we’re thinking “Yo” (I’m not making this up). Me: Joss (my response to most things), so how do you want us to help? Client: Have you seen this ad? Here’s the link. We want it just like this and we would like you to come up with something out of the box. Me: Joss. Result: We worked tirelessly for a couple of months. Script after script, shot divisions, treatment notes, budgets, revised budgets, revision of revised budget but we still failed. Now, there’s possibly a million reasons why that didn’t work but “joss” is never the right reply. I mean it's great, it shows that you’re young and hip; can connect with the youth but you never get a chance to fully understand the brief. After all one man’s “yo” is another man’s “oh no!” Take another example, where we fully understood the brief and came up with a super plan. The pitch was one of a kind. Bodyguards, no phones in the conference room, pictures of foreign kings and a humongous self-portrait of the owner too! We worked really hard on this and came up with an exciting plan for the whole year that included commercials, activations, social media strategies and events. The client, an eccentric man of few words is not known to laugh but thoroughly enjoyed the presentation and loved what we had done. So how the hell did we not get the account? They weren’t sure whether our team was capable enough. They loved our work but to take on that brand- we’d need a fairly large team, be financially capable of buying yachts in the Middle East and service them with a smile whenever they needed something. We were devastated and rightfully so; but in reality, a couple of brilliant campaigns aren’t what they wanted. They needed a large servicing-oriented agency that could look after their brand. I believe they’re still looking. Two of my favourite one off campaigns were the “KFC Big Ten” campaign and the “Grameenphone Anti Cyber-bullying PSA”. Both ideas that sounded crazy at the time but turned out to be fairly successful. KFC had finished 10 years in Bangladesh and wanted to reach out to their fans. We were given a presentation for roughly an hour about what they wanted us to do. I heard them out patiently and after a deep sigh said “joss.” However instead of stopping there, I asked nicely if I could come up with a plan of my own to which they reluctantly agreed. We played a game of 20 questions over coffee when I fully understood what they were looking for and in a couple of weeks, came up with possibly our most interesting “integrated campaign”. So what worked this time? We were still the small team with just about enough money to pay our salaries. We gave them a detailed execution plan along with the big campaign idea. Every little nitty gritty was covered; the who behind each task to the how and why. The client was convinced that we were as passionate about the brand as they were and boy, were they in love with their fried chicken. Our pitch was short but precise. All aspects covered without boring them with unnecessary details. Moral of the story: Your client is human, understand how he or she works and serve your pitch accordingly. Not every client likes their steak done medium rare. The Grameenphone Anti Cyber bullying PSA was intense. We came up with an idea for a video with clear graphic violence. (A struggle really, but for a brand as big as theirs, this was going to be quite the risk). The client loved the idea--it was powerful, unique and delivered the message clearly but were we the right ones for the job? A lot of ideas seem great on paper but when it comes to execution, experience is key. A proven track record goes a long way and we weren’t the multiple “commward”-winning guys that we aspire to be someday. What seemed to work was how dedicated we were. From the costumes to the set layout and the sound design references; it was clear that we had done our homework and we knew exactly how we were going to execute the plan. The results speak for themselves but I can assure you, this wasn’t easy. I remember going into set cursing myself for coming up with an idea like this but with fairly decent technical skills and a lot of passion, it’s hard not to achieve what you want right? Let me sum up for you (as you should too in your presentation):• Understand the brief and plan accordingly.• Study your client - Clients (as hard as it is to believe sometimes) are human. They’re unique from one another and the same approach for each client rarely works.• Prove to them that your company will be able to take on the task.• Master the ancient art of Jitalamu (win someone over) and work on your boogie. I’m no advertising guru. Far from it. I’ve tried my best not to sound like one either but hope at least some of this helps you in winning that account you’ve been dreaming of.