LIFE’S A PITCH

I went to a NABS talk the other evening.
Helen Calcraft and Martin Jones were speaking about new business.
Pitching to be specific.
What was interesting was the difference between the male and female presentation.
Martin talked first.
He’d been the head of the AAR, the people that handle around 50% of all new business pitches.
So Martin knows what he’s talking about.
He put up lots of useful facts and pointers, lots of tips.
He’d seen just about every agency pitching over the years.
He analysed what worked, and why, what to do, and what not.
Each chart had an interesting line of useful of information.
All the men in the audience were nodding along, taking it in.
Then Helen Calcraft spoke.
And as she talked you felt the room shift.
All the women came to life.
Helen is the founder of MCBD.
She’s also the most successful new business person in London.
Helen’s presentation was much less about the facts and much more about the emotions.
Helen went through the experience of pitching in a way that brought it to life.
First she described the whole process like this.
“Each client is like a superstar.
Immediately they announce their business is up for pitch, every agency in town will be all over them like paparazzi.
But clients don’t know, or care, anything about advertising agencies.
So what we have to do is the equivalent of getting Johnny Depp to pick us out of a crowd of adoring fans, ask us for a date, and then in four week’s time ask us to marry him.”
Immediately she moved it away from the simple mechanical world of solutions that all the men understood, into the world of seduction and relationships that women understood.
Of course everyone was riveted.
To show what clients thought of ad agencies she put up a slide of Hugh Hefner and his Playboy Bunnies.
She said “Clients see us just like this. We may think we’re fabulous, but to them we all look identical.”
Then she said one of the most important parts was deciding how committed we were before the process started.
Did you really, really want the account?
And she put up a picture of Tom Cruise.
She said, “You may initially find someone attractive, but do you really want to get into a long term relationship with someone who jumps up and down on Oprah’s sofa?”
Then she talked about the various stages of the process.
She said the chemistry meeting was like the first date.
She put up a picture of a pouting Jordan and said, “Don’t be needy. Don’t keep talking about yourself: how famous you are and what you’ve done. How boring is that on a first date? Talk about them, find out what they want.”
Then she talked about the tissue meeting.
She said the tissue meeting is like the first weekend away.
And she put up a photo of a woman shaving her legs and a man sitting on the toilet.
She said, “On the first weekend away together, don’t leave the toilet door open, don’t shave your legs. You don’t need to let them know all the less attractive parts about you. That’s too much information.”
And Helen went through the whole pitch process like that.
Not just for the rational side of the brain, but to let her audience know how it feels.
But I’m a bloke, and I’m a creative.
So the two tips that resonated with me were the ones where the headline played off the visual, like a really good ad.
She had a picture of Camilla Parker Bowles and the headline “Never Underestimate The Competition.”
Like a really good ad, it takes you a minute to get it.
So that, when you do, it sinks in.
She gave the example of MCBD being beaten by a big, dull, old agency that they hadn’t taken seriously as a rival.
Then she showed a picture of Anne Widdecombe with the headline “Being Right Isn’t The Same As Being Irresistible”.
This really resonated with me.
All creatives think if we get the ‘right’ answer, as far as the consumer’s concerned, the client must buy our solution.
But in a pitch the consumer isn’t the target market.
In a pitch the client is the target market.
So the right answer may not be the ‘right’ answer.
What Martin did was take us through the pitch process in a way we could understand.
What Helen did was take everyone though the process in a way everyone could empathise with.
And that’s why she’s the most successful new business person in London.
Because she knows feelings are more important than facts.
As she and Martin both said:
If a client like a particular agency, they’ll make the facts fit that feeling.
If a client doesn’t like a particular agency, they’ll make the facts fit that feeling.

Or, as the philosopher David Hume said, “Reason is the slave of the passions.”

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    I feel ya.

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    Fabulous blog, Dave! Genius comments from Helen and Martin. Best wishes to you and long may you blog.

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    It is also important for creatives to understand that the objective of the pitch is to win the business. You can’t sell the creative work until you have done this. And the creative work that is presented at the pitch is very rarely the work that actually runs.

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    Love the Hugh Hefner and his bunnies analogy.

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    For everyone who doesn’t know, Kerry (above) runs the AAR.
    Half of all new business that moves, goes through them.
    She’s already forgotten more about how the whole process works than I know.
    So thanks Kerry.

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    Interesting.

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    I’m working on a pitch at the moment, where ideas are developed (and ruined) by committee. Much to my frustration the work right now is definitely a bit Ann Widdecombe… (“Being Right Isn’t The Same As Being Irresistible”).

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    Fantastic Dave, really enjoyed that. That was like a more encompassing version of how men and women argue. Men always insist they are ‘right’ like that is all that matters.

    Do you keep a copy of Hume by your bedside? He gets an airing quite often here.

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    Helen is so right, people will always want to fit the facts to their feelings.

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    Well spotted Chris,
    I am a big exponent of reason but, as Hume said ‘Reason is motivationally inert’.
    This statement was a shock for me and something, as a bloke, I’m still coming to terms with.
    But I don’t feel too bad, even Kant said ‘Hume awakened me from my dogmatic slumbers.”
    Hey, if it’s good enough for Kant…….

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    Very stimulating blog. It got me thinking about one of our clients.
    He is an engineer, an extremely left brain person. If we use an emotional approach he would think we are a bunch of Hugh Hefners in clown outfits and wouldn’t waste his time listening to us.
    So we, first, have to activate his left brain by talking facts, reasons, process-proof…etc. And make sure he thinks we are from the same side of the world as him.
    Only then he would open his right brain, a bit, and we could start to present our creative work.
    So sometimes you have to talk to the left brain first in order to get to the right brain.

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    Very stimulating blog. It got me thinking about one of our clients.
    He is an engineer, an extremely left brain person. If we use an emotional approach he would think we are a bunch of Hugh Hefners in clown outfits and wouldn’t waste his time listening to us.
    So we, first, have to activate his left brain by talking facts, reasons, process-proof…etc. And make sure he thinks we are from the same side of the world as him.
    Only then he would open his right brain, a bit, and we could start to present our creative work.
    So sometimes you have to talk to the left brain first in order to get to the right brain.

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    Hi Thor,
    What you say is actually true of a lot of advertising.
    WHAT we say is left brain, HOW we say it is right brain.
    Which is how facts can build a brand.
    For 50 years Mercedes built great cars, now that’s their brand.
    Same with VW, same with Audi.
    The left brain is a valid way to get to the right brain.

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    that’s a no-brainer Dave………so long as you keep Wittgenstein out of the mix! He was probaly the most left-brained philosopher ever.

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    Chris,
    Wouldn’t you say that Wittgenstein had gone so far to the left that he’s almost made a complete circle to the right brain?
    “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must remain silent.” is something youd hear from a zen master.
    Totally intuitive.

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    Dave,
    Would you say emotion. more than reason, determines the public’s attitude to a product? Does logic come a remote second to passion? If ours is a game of the heart, as well as the head then is it a case of varying degrees of left and right thinking depending on the product category? Ultimately, it’s all got to add up to three, right?

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    I’d just like to know who delivered the fact about the AAR being responsible for 50% of all new business decisions.
    Was it a man or woman?

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    Skoda are steadily winning their fight to overcome the ’emotional’ negativity associated with their brand.
    Their problem is diametric to the other vehicles in their group (VW + Audi), whose left-brain appeal of reliability and security justify their expense to the driving public.

    My wife still wouldn’t consider a Skoda, because they are junk / unreliable / a joke – various stand-up comedians in the 70s and 80s (when we were kids) massively undermined the brand in the eyes of UK public. It took VW Group (with its appeal to left brain sensibility) and some concerted effort to win-back the UK public. But the real difference in the brands fortunes were also heavily reliant on a change in right-brain response to Skoda. Great advertising – a sense of humour, a touch of self deprecation and a confident belief in its own quality have turned the tide to a great extent and Skoda is now practically mainstream.

    Although the wife still wouldn’t have one…

    Also interesting in relation to your next post about Detroit – the Skoda Fabia found a strong 2nd hand market in a form of student counter-culture – reliable, cheap and unwanted by most drivers – lots of students loved them in the 90s, and now these people have buyign power.

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    Gotnoteef, Car manufacturers should definitely consider the woman driver. I’d suggest an identical set of control panels pedals and steering wheel in the passenger’s front seat so they can bite the steering wheel whilst screaming “Brake!”

    I wonder if there is any research to prove whether having a “Tom Tom” in your car makes driving safer for men by distracting wives whilst their husband is driving?????

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    Kevin, I’m afraid my better half fancies herself as a potential Stig replacement – no shouting break from her side of the car.

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    Not even “break the speed limit, gotno”?

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    I know G – savage typo – and I saw it just as I pressed ‘post’ – measure twice, cut once!

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    “Reason is the slave of passions” ..love it. Do creatives go for the right solution or the creative one, the one thats more fun, gets talked about, even if it does not make the brand proposition stronger, or make the consumer buy it..or even the client buy it? So much talk about winning awards. Like this were hollywood not advertising. Are we in the business of selling or entertainment. Sometimes we confuse ourselves.