Eight New-Biz Resolutions for 2008

First on the List: Size Does Matter

By Published on .

Millie Olson Millie Olson
"There ought to be a law against what you guys have to do. Your business should be regulated!" That's what a friend outside the ad biz said a few mornings ago, after watching me put in 12-hour-plus days straight through the first half of January, squeezing a couple of pitches into an always busy month.

So I'm way late in the New Year's resolution department, but hope you'll understand. Here goes:
  1. No pitching in reviews that include agencies 10 or more times our size, even when they say size doesn't matter. Duh, you might say, but we eagerly put our all into one such pitch, after being reassured that we were not a dark horse. They told us we were fabulous, that we nailed it -- and that we were too small. We lost to an agency we know well, with 500 people in one office alone.

  2. No spec creative. OK, maybe that's my 2009 resolution. How about: No spec creative if there are more than three agencies in the finals. Most prospects don't ask for spec directly; they might say something like, "Show us how you'd approach our business." Honestly, I'd probably do the same if our roles were reversed. So we make those things that are not ads. At Amazon we call them ALO's, for "ad-like objects." We can choose not to, but then we probably won't win.

  3. No staffing promises in a first meeting. I've always struggled with this one: "Bring the people who are going to work day-to-day on my business." If you have employees sitting around with enough time to handle a major new piece of business, you're not running your own business very well. And how do you really know what the dynamics will be before you even meet? So, when possible, we suggest the positions but not the individuals, except senior management.

    No more pitches with consultants who use e-mail to notify agencies they didn't make the finals. That really happened, and while I persisted until we finally got a debrief by phone, it's an experience I don't want to repeat.

    Take an IT person to multi-media pitches, no matter how simple it all seems to IT. Juggling cords and remotes while attempting to shake hands with the VP-marketing is not presidential, a colleague reminded me after an out-of-town pitch before the holidays. Even though the prospective client had its own IT guy, there was a Mac-to-PC breakdown, and as its team filed into the presentation room, there I was bonding with Mr. PC.

    No more being flattered into pitches for categories in which you have little experience. We often make the finals, only to be beaten by someone who knows the category inside and out. You were a strong second, they say.

    Put a copyright line on all materials to remind them they haven't hired you yet.

    Help make 2008 the year we come up with a better pitch process.

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