Aalok Bhan
Guest Article

10 things I wish advertising agency heads kept in mind while pitching

...because pitching is more of an art backed by science...

A great pitch is a work of art which must be designed to make a connection between the pitcher and the client. When done to perfection, a good pitch has the ability to bowl clients over. However, when overdone or underdone, it can leave a lasting perception that’s difficult to correct. I have sat through multiple pitches this year and while almost all of them were on point, here are 10 things I wish advertising agencies kept in mind while pitching:

  1. Understanding the client’s brief:

Understanding the brief and being direct in addressing it are an imperative to any great pitch. If you are unclear, call the client. Assumptions are the mother of all disasters and one can easily avoid them by simply checking with the client. If you go wrong with the brief, it's game over.

  1. Answer the ‘Why’ and ‘Why not?’ of the brief:

Most agencies go to great lengths to answer the ‘Why’ of the brief. However, anticipating and proactively answering the ‘Why not’ just elevates the pitch to the next level. For example, when the pitcher makes a recommendation for using a jingle in an ad campaign he will mostly answer ‘why’ doing so will deliver great results. However, if the pitcher could include a few key insights around the ‘why not’ - like jingles are catchy when compared to articles and less expensive when compared to television advertisements, while also having the ability to blend into electronic / digital advertisements, it would make the pitch more compelling.

  1. It’s not about your work, it’s about the client’s business:

In a pitch, move quickly through your own credentials and spend more time on the client’s brief. Take time to demonstrate how you will help them solve, resolve, or exceed business objectives in line with the brief.

  1. Tell a compelling story:

This one goes back to basics. As humans, we all love stories. A great pitch is tied to a compelling story. Instead of trying to sell an idea, try creating a plot that your client will follow. It will also help in keeping all in the room engaged and hooked on to the idea. Remember, most stories have a happy ending!

  1. Don’t be afraid to use statistics while narrating your story:

Many agencies use statistics while presenting. However, it feels like a transition from the story to a subplot and then back to the main story. Using statistics as part of the narrative will only add to your pitch’s stickiness.

  1. Don’t end at the story – bring it to life:

Most agencies end at the story. However, every client wants to know what’s required to bring the story to life along with roles and responsibilities. Agencies with an implementable action plan are perceived to be professional and more importantly, they are seen as partners. The ability to showcase how the story unfolds gives clients the assurance that the agency will function like an extension to their own team in seeing the campaign through to the end.

  1. Visual is vital:

Avoid too much clutter and text on slides. Keeping it simple, neat and visually appealing adds to the pitch. The general rule I like to follow is 10 words per slide with key takeaways.

  1. Real category experience – Be the customer yourself

Providing clients with real category experiences demonstrates the background research that has gone into developing the pitch. When a pitch reflects real customer insights, it makes the client sit up and pay attention to the pitcher. It also makes the pitch more realistic and memorable.

  1. Engaging with the audience in the room:

While pitching, engage with your audience in the room. Make eye contact, ask questions, invite questions. Make it interactive when required. If it’s a multi-agency pitch, don’t forget to leave a copy of your presentation behind or send a follow-up email. Trust me, it matters.

  1. A role for everyone and everyone in role:

Everyone in the room should have a role and everyone should be in role. As human beings, we tend to zone out or get distracted if we are not engaged in an activity. This is true even at pitches. If a person is in the room, then she/he should be focused and ready to play her/his part, otherwise the person would end up being a distraction.

There is always room for improvement because pitching is more of an art backed by science than the other way around. The only way to get better at it is by learning from previous pitches and what could have been done better. Therefore, while the above pointers are things I wish are done better, different clients will have different parameters apart from one being constant, the brief.

(The author is director and chief marketing officer, Max Life Insurance.)