GRAND RAPIDS, June 2, 2012 – Pitching is the most important skill a creative working in advertising can possess. You can have the greatest ideas in the world but if you can’t express them clearly to the client, they’ll never see the light of day. Sure, you could try to get by with someone else pitching the concept, but then it’s not really yours any more, is it? It’s a skill that most creatives would like to shrink from all together, the moment when you become a salesperson, but if you want to keep your job you’re going to have to learn. Veteran pitchmen give their guidance on this priceless practice.
Legendary adman Kevin Allen, of Kevin Allen Partners, who pitched the globally famous priceless MasterCard campaign had this to say: “It’s called pursuit strategy. When they give you the brief, and they say they have a market share issue and we’d like your ideas, that’s not the brief. That’s a letter, and behind that letter there is a deep emotional desire with the person behind it. That person might be ambitious, worried, et cetera and my experience is that the decision they’ll make is not about the figures, it’s about the emotional motivation. I have seen people come back from delivering the perfect pitch, and say, “we didn’t get it!” And they ask where they went wrong when it was perfect. And it was because the solution had no bearing on that emotional motivation. I go in and ask, “What keeps you up at night?” and, “If you had a magic wand, what would happen if you could do anything?” By definition, it will open up a completely different dialogue.
The Big Day
Kevin recanted his story of the hours leading up to his historic pitch to MasterCard. “It’s the night before, and I’m pitching MasterCard,” he said. “Everyone knew that it could change lives. I am absolutely petrified. I called up a colleague of mind, and said “Man, I don’t know what to do.” He said, “Give them your love.” I said “What?!” He said, “These people are human beings, and if you are that slightly quirky, fun character, they’ll love it. Give them yourself. You love this solution; give it to them as if giving them a gift.” It made me not be a presentation man, it made me be myself. When we approach a presentation, it’s always so high stakes. We’re in business, so we think we have to make it business-like. And somehow all of a sudden it becomes this formulaic experience, and I think it has to be quite the opposite.”
During The Pitch
Matt Eastwood, Chief Creative Officer of DDB New York, explains how he runs his pitch. “The theme has to be able to fit onto a business card. Our goal is to have the client always walk away with one key thought. In Hollywood, the movie Twins was famously pitched as such, “Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny Devito are twins.” It’s funny, you get it, and you don’t need a script. So the client needs to respond to the one big idea, then they’ll respond to the chemistry of the people in the room. I’ve sat in with 13 speaking parts, and to me that’s a disaster. They don’t get to know the people. As a client, you’re choosing who you want to be in meetings with for the next five years, they’re buying both the people and the idea. So we keep it small.”
When talking with Rob Schwartz, Chief Creative Officer of TBWA\CHIAT\DAY Los Angeles, he had this to say, “The biggest mistake creatives make is pitching the preciousness of their idea, that they’re so wrapped up in the idea and the execution that they don’t think about their audience. The client is trying to build their brand; you have to think about how what you’re showing them will help. It’s about why, why is this important? Another big mistake is they talk about the process of how they got to the idea. They give a big talk about how they were at a café, a dog walks by, et cetera and then they get the idea. It’s like a restaurant chef telling me how they made a sausage; when I just want it presented to me. Lastly, the most important thing you can bring is conviction. For young people, you need some energy. You need to be able to bring your passion you bring to the work and show it and communicate it.”
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