24 hour pitching people
At the end of a hectic day, Bloomberg Businessweek’s latest issue had just gone to print, when the death of Steve Jobs was officially announced. Exactly the kind of story the magazine covered, they swallowed hard and made a ballsy decision. The finished issue was binned and in a matter of a few hours a special edition about Jobs, his life and legacy was thrown together. Fortune favours the bold, and this issue was considered impressive enough to win many illustrious creative and publishing awards. You can read the whole tale in this month’s Creative Review.
‘More haste, less speed’ is not always a truism with design. Indeed often the best answers are scribbled on the pad in the briefing because as Picasso noted, “the sketch doesn’t take seconds, it takes a lifetime (of experience)”. It is truer to say that design will fill up all the available time rather like that foam builders pump into wall cavities will expand to fill all available space. I don’t care if the job has to be turned around in two hours or two months, experience tells me the work will be mounted and leaving the cutting room seconds before the deadline. Designers are nothing if not industrious and quality driven as a breed. However, as the Bloomberg example illustrates, sometimes a tight deadline is great for focussing the mind and getting the juices flowing.
This got me thinking about pitches. Personally I love the first day of a pitch, when the ideas are pinging around and the possibilities seem endless. It’s the next three weeks that are a bit tougher; polishing, whittling, re-ordering, agonising. All to be an agency standing in front of a prospective client, asking them to love you. Apparently, I am not alone. “I really hate pitches” is something I regularly hear from clients (often in the context of them briefing a pitch). This offers all the comfort of a headmaster flexing their cane while intoning “this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you”.
So here’s a thought. If you hate long drawn out pitches and we hate long drawn out pitches, why not follow Bloomberg’s example and only allow 24 hours to come back? For agencies this will sharpen the mind and focus on essentials. For clients, it should ensure a true instinctive response un-smothered by dreary PowerPoint. Any creativity applied, by necessity, will not be part of a ‘beauty parade’, it will get to the heart of the matter. And if you are looking for ‘chemistry’ what better way to judge if your prospective agency is catching the spark? Besides, if you hate to be the one telling three candidate agencies they have not made the cut, well this way they only invested a day, not two months expensive resources. Twenty-four hour turnaround should have the happy consequence of making the pitch cheaper for client and agency alike. Of course the right and diligent answer will take a while longer to develop. But isn’t the point of pitching to find the right partner, not the fully resolved ‘answer’?
Perhaps we should give it a go. After all it’s surprising what you can achieve in a day, if you put your mind to it. And god, it might even be fun!