Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What's wrong with pitching

I've been on tens of advertising pitches. Some are great, some are not. But they are all quite a lot of work. Often that's because we work hard, not smart. The problem most common problems with pitches are the lack of structure, process and internal deadlines. 

If you've never worked on one, I'll tell you what it is at its worst:

After quickly glancing over the client's brief, the strategy team immediately starts to amass tens of powerpoint slides for "a deck". In parallel, creative teams are quickly briefed to come up with "the big idea". What happens next is numerous chaotic revisions of "the deck" and "the big idea" until all the available time has been used up and it's time to pull the thing together. Normally at this point ten different people edit and change "the deck" around until everyone working on it is too exhausted to change a thing and then you just hope for the best.
You end up with something that's by design disjointed, has no red thread with a bloated blunt strategy and creative that doesn't match it, as these were worked on in parallel. This means you miss opportunities, stress everyone out and end up with poor last minute work. I admit, sometimes magic does come out of chaos and things just click, but I wouldn't count on it.

Now this is how I'd run a pitch:

 I'd have a few very strict phases in it and deadlines that have to hold, in order to have sufficient time to work on each phase equally and make the most out of the time you have.

1) Discovery phase:
Find out what you can on the category, the products, the competition or what ever is relevant. And read the brief. Everyone on the assignment has to know what the client wants, not only what the account person says the client wants. Don't try to solve the problem here, just learn about it.

2) Strategy write-ups:
Instead of doing massive powerpoints that contain every single aspect of the story. Planners and strategists meet up, talk about the brief and then do quick individual write-ups of what they think the key issues are and how to solve them. Write-ups should be half a page of dynamite. Then you talk, compare and iterate a few rounds - and then you lock it up. The final output should still fit on a page. And remember - when writing strategy, less is more. So keep the crew small or you end up running a committee - and write short and sharp. Don't be fluffy or try to keep doors open with inclusive language, that's what bad strategists do.

3) Creative write-ups:
There is no separate creative brief, the strategy write-up is the brief. Creative teams then pitch quick write-ups with mood imagery in two or three sessions a day. At the end of this phase, you select how ever many ideas you want to present to be developed.

4) Write the story:
Now whoever is going to present this thing, or most of it, needs to write the outline of the presentation and work with creative and strategy directors to have the specifics of what the story is, how it is told and what assets need to be developed to tell it. Before the outline has been agreed upon, no-one is allowed to touch powerpoint.

5) Compile and practice:
The presentation only has one owner. All materials should be compiled and rehearsed a day or two before the actual deadline to present, so if you still need one more comp or need to pull a statistic to support the strategy, you have the time to do it.

And that's it.

Good luck.

1 comment:

  1. It sounds like you want to run things with Agile, as we try to do in IT http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agile_software_development#Characteristics