OPINION: BUCHANAN ON ... PITCHING

Over the past four years I’ve attended more than 80 pitches, witnessing London’s finest agencies at their best. So I’ve made more calls to winners and losers, imparting good or bad news, than probably anyone else.

Over the past four years I’ve attended more than 80 pitches,

witnessing London’s finest agencies at their best. So I’ve made more

calls to winners and losers, imparting good or bad news, than probably

anyone else.



This experience got me thinking about the basic mistakes agencies make,

which result in the call no agency chief wants to take. Below is a list

of my top-ten tips for agencies that want to increase their pitching

ability:



1. Ask intelligent, searching questions before the pitch which allow you

to add something fresh to the client’s brief. Winning begins from the

initial contact, not when the selection panel arrives in reception.



2. Ensure that the day-to-day team attends the presentation and, more

importantly, has a role. Too often the team we may be working with sits

in silent awe while the client is subjected to 60 minutes of the

chairman’s ego.



3. Ensure there is a thread of steel running from the strategy through

to the creative idea. In my experience not having one is the single

greatest contributor to failure.



4. Don’t offer attractive added-value ideas in the build up which then

fail to materialise when the creative work is revealed.



5. A good planner provides robust signposting towards the creative

presentation.



A great planner brings consumer insights delivered with an air of

independence.



If this careful stage management works it creates an atmosphere of

anticipation and agreement (the client thinks the agency is making the

connection between the brief and the creative solution). All of which

can be rudely shattered when the creative director rises to articulate

his vision and promptly goes off at a tangent.



6. Don’t avoid tricky exam questions set in the brief. Views on

evaluation techniques are always requested, but one agency in four

ignores the request.



7. Don’t be afraid to set quantified objectives for the advertising,

even if these are absent from the client brief. And don’t be afraid to

clearly state what the advertising can and can’t achieve in relation to

those objectives.



8. Avoid traditional cliches. Everyone makes a joke about media’s ’five

minute slot’ - it was never particularly funny and doesn’t improve with

constant repetition.



9. Some people are natural presenters, some are not. Think about this in

your presentation format. A mix of good and bad presenters can leave a

confused impression of an agency and its abilities.



10. Q&As at the end of the formal presentation can be critical. Avoid

the temptation to interrupt the client while he or she is talking. Don’t

answer a question before it has been properly put and answer succinctly

- it’s not an opportunity to make another speech.



These basic mistakes are all the more frustrating since standards have

risen. Presentations on PowerPoint, the use of the latest technology, a

more integrated solution and precision targeting tools have all added

significantly to presentation quality.



Peter Buchanan is director of marketing communications at the COI.



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