While I was working at St Luke’s, we were invited to pitch on Labour’s New Deal.
St Luke’s was fairly young at this point and, together with the new initiative for Labour, the whole opportunity felt fresh all round.
We eventually made it down to the last two agencies, and were invited to pitch against Young & Rubicam at 10 Downing Street in front of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson.
We only had 15 minutes to present. To our then managing director, David Abraham, 15 minutes meant one thing: military precision. We rehearsed everything to the second. We practised walking into the room, measuring each step and perfecting our power walks. We were drilled rigorously in taking work out of bags and adjusting easels. David would stand, eyes on his stopwatch, making sure everything was precise until we became a fearsomely efficient pitch team.
The only downside of practising so intensely was that sleep became far less of a priority. On the day of the pitch, a few hours after the all-night rehearsal had finished, David picked me up in a taxi and we headed for Number 10. I was enjoying the view until a moment of groggy panic set in. Turning to David, I said: "I’ve left the work at home." After an understandable moment of anger, followed by a deathly silence, David made it clear that we didn’t have time to go back to get the work.
We just have to walk in there and show them we mean business. They don’t need to know we’re screwed
We went through the security checks at Number 10, and made it to a small pre-pitch chamber where we sat down next to an immaculately suited and booted Y&R. Our planner, Marie, was wearing strange slippers, and I’d chosen a suit with a gaping rip on the behind. We were in a shambolic state.
David gathered us into a huddle. "Right," he said, "we just have to walk in there and show them we mean business. They don’t need to know we’re screwed." He followed this mildly inspirational advice by telling us that we’d have to act out the work and make the best of it.
A secretary then emerged to call the first team to pitch. Praying our name wouldn’t be called, we of course heard the words "St Luke’s". We began our trudge to the door, and were practically crossing the threshold when the unlikely figure of my boyfriend popped up, clutching the work in his hand. How he ever got through security remains a mystery, but frankly I don’t really care.
Our confidence instantly rocketed with the knowledge that we had something to present to the PM and we executed David’s plan with his intended precision. It’s a miracle we won the pitch, but an unshakeable team spirit can achieve anything.
Kate Stanners was the creative director at St Luke's in 1997; she is now the chairwoman and global chief creative officer of Saatchi & Saatchi