Tuesday, July 01, 2008

For the kids

I've been busier than fuck.

We had a new business pitch and I take it very seriously.
It occurred to me a new generation of youngsters might not yet know the phenomenon of the new business pitch. Let me lay down some ground rules:

For the interns:

New business pitches are the equivalent of childbirth for an agency. They are long, drawn out and painful. Even after you've done a couple of them already, they demand your time and your full attention. You have to be careful, you have to be mindful, and there is almost guarenteed to be a little pushing, a little cursing, and kind words from those who would like you to push a little harder.

Par for the course. THIS IS ADVERTISING.

New business pitches are also a lot like buying a house. You set a budget. You blow the budget making modifications. And then you immediately start compromising and looking for ways to make it more marketable so you can sell it in less than a day, and somehow make your money back.

Please ask before you go home the night before a pitch.

For the juniors:

At least you're getting PAID to stick around the agency until 12AM, sacrificing your fingernails to poorly-wielded exacto blades, learning how to change the toner cartridge and reboot your mac for the FIFTH FUCKING TIME! Consider: you could be unemployed - and most likely you will be if we lose this pitch. (I know, that's the wrong kind of message to send to juniors - but I'm kind of old school like that.)

For the mid-level folk:

When one person pitches, we're ALL pitching.

For creative directors:

If I'm there, you're there (unless you've stepped out to arrange a spa day for your team.)

For those of you who are presenting:

Be the one that everyone talks about after the pitch like this "YOUR NAME HERE kicked its ass. HE/SHE was perfect."

For the rest of you:

There is no crying in pitches.
No family.
No sleep.
No happy hours.
No guarantees.
Never enough time.
No good presenting position (but always take last, because people have shitty memories).

There is the camaraderie of working late and commiserating. And the satisfaction of knowing you couldn't possibly have worked any harder, given the time you had, to make that pitch as good as it could possibly be.

And all that isn't worth a shit when you lose. Losing doesn't hurt. Losing sucks. Losing - burning yourself at three ends trying to deliver the moon in 96 hours - sucks bad. Even if EVERYONE did what they were supposed to do. Especially then. Because then you have no one to blame but yourself.

Should have kerned that line of copy. Thought harder about that headline. Agonized over that trimline. It's like coming in second in the Olympics. All this work for SECOND FUCKING PLACE?

This might seem bitter from a guy who has only been doing this stuff for eleven years. But I've been through a lot of new business pitches. I know what it takes to get through one. And I know what it feels like to win a few. A few too few.


J_Fox said...

Now that's a post. Hope you get the biz. For purely selfish reasons.

You did forget at least one:

For the account planners: If we have four weeks to prepare, don't spend three of them figuring out the strategy. Late nights caused by your indecision are not cool.

James-H said...

yeah - there are elements of the pitch I didn't touch on here. This is more a pitching culture primer for creatives.

Also: I hope we get it too. I'll post back with the results.

Also Also: While a few of these thoughts popped into my head while I was matting work around midnight, I want to note that Slingshot does an outstanding job of pitching new business - and has an outstanding new business win record because they are truly a different kind of agency.

Also also also: Did I mention advertising is hard work?