Perfect Pitch

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1. More is Not More: Gone are the days when a pitch should drag on longer than a Star Wars prequel. Remember, we're in the sound bite age now. If you can't say what you have to say in an hour or so, pare it down and remember that, for the most part, agencies are buying ideas, not executions .

2. A Campaign That Lacks Strategy: Speaking of ideas, cool ads are OK, as long as they're backed up by an equally cool and rational strategy. If your goal, like Hogshead's, is to "brace your clients for work that might scare the shit out of them," do your homework. Know your client's business, understand the category, know the target audience; then create 'scary' work that takes all three into account.

3. Not Connecting With the Client Will Cost You: Clients have to trust you, and that trust is earned with serious effort, even before the pitch. This means doing your homework in such a way that not only do you professionally strategize with your prospect or client, you relate on a personal level with them as well.

4. Have the Decision Makers in the Room: How many times have you heard the old "Can you just leave the boards and we'll run it by the president as an FYI?" Don't ever give up your boards. Either offer to come back and present directly to the president, or make sure the big guy - or gal - is in the room the first time around.

5. Talking in Code: Don't try to talk peer-to-peer to a prospective client. Madison Avenue argot can be annoying for those not clued in to its finer points. Inscrutable acronyms are bound to confuse the issue rather than bridge the communications gap. People are often reluctant to show their ignorance; to hide their embarrassment, they won't ask questions. The bottom line: If your audience doesn't understand, doesn't ask questions and doesn't feel included, they won't get your message and won't buy your work.

6. Welcome the Client's Input: While this may sound like nothing more than semantics, don't use words like "I" and "we" (referring to your agency). " "You" and "us" (when they refer to client and agency together) are much more inclusive. Besides, you've already spent all that time pre-connecting to the people on the client side. Asking for their participation and input during a pitch should be second nature by now.

7. Presenting to the Work: Creatives who present to the work rather than to their audience will probably spend their ninety minutes obscuring the storyboard. The client is bound to feel ignored. You should know the work so well that you don't have to look at it to talk about it.

8. Better Believe in What You're Showing: There's no subsitute for believing in your own blood, sweat and tears. If a client sees you flinch after a question, or you seem dubious about an idea, you lose credibility.

9. Inappropriate Remarks Can Kill: According to Jim Schmidt, comments like the following can slip out more easily than you think: "This is a definite award show winner." "Filming this in Tahiti is an absolute necessity." They add to the chance that you will never see the client (or his satchel of cash) again.

10. Don't Forget the Dress Rehearsal: Last but not least, when it comes to pitching, practice makes perfect - even if it's just last-minute cramming in your car. Who cares if you look like the guy in Volkswagen's Mr. Roboto commercial?

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