PERSPECTIVE: The pitch ’reveals’ that keep waiting clients in the dark

I have a terrible confession to make. Nigh-on ten years around this industry and I can’t see the point of two fundamental aspects of agency life.

I have a terrible confession to make. Nigh-on ten years around this

industry and I can’t see the point of two fundamental aspects of agency


The first is why some agencies require their staff to work every weekend

while others manage to churn out work of outstanding originality and

effectiveness during normalish working hours. I suppose this has its

roots in leaner staffing levels coupled with the myth that advertising

is an art not a profession - the perfect excuse for the lack of

discipline which leads to the generation of an incredible amount of work

in agencies by creatives and clients in the interests of ’trying every

thing every way’ because no-one can make a decision. It’s difficult to

object to clients doing this when agencies, by all accounts, do it far


The second is the ’reveal’ - that climactic stage at the end of a

presentation to a client when, with everyone seated in an enormous

presentation room, the account director in full flow, the agency team

nodding encouragingly at him or her with shining eyes, the agency

unveils the ad. But not before having laboriously re-explained the

strategy that the client already knows led to the creative solution.

As to the second, I have no explanation. Why can’t agencies see what’s

staring them in the face? It’s just not true that clients want to hear

about the strategy that led to the creative before seeing an ad for the

first time. They could easily nod all the way through the strategy stuff

and then hate the work. Clients want to see the ad, without preamble,

exactly as their target consumers would experience it. Clients want to

know what the ad would feel like when played to a couple who, exhausted

by a hard day’s compromising at work, sit in their Bristol semi with a

posse of kids in the background. Even if the client is not in the target

market - and chances are they are not - they will have spent enough on

research to know how to read their target like a book.

Before hands trembling with rage and venom write to tell me how dumb

some clients really are, I should point out that the reveal works

against agencies in the long run. For the paradox is this. Serving up

the strategy before serving up the ad does not (as intended) show how

brilliant agencies are at communicating ideas. It merely gives them an

excuse to cut the client out of the thought process during the briefing

and development meetings. It’s as crazy as the national newspaper editor

defending the publication of lurid details about Robin Cook’s private

life on the grounds of anxiety for the dignity of Britain’s foreign

policy, when it’s all about indulging our basic human appetite for

gossip, tut-tutting and scandal.

Allow the client to see the ad before a lengthy preamble about


You must be joking. They might not see how clever agencies really are.


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