Towards the end of their year as ‘grads’, last year’s Foundry equivalents worked on a pitch for new business. Alone. And won! Well done grads. Congratulations! Now answer our questions.
We interviewed them to find out what each person did, and how they coped with the pressures of the job…
Anyone interested in planning, account management or becoming a creative should have a wee read.
WHAT WAS YOUR ROLE IN THE PITCH PROCESS?
LORNA (planner): My job was to try and clarify exactly what the brief was. The first thing I did was organise focus groups where I wrote a discussion guide, lead the discussion and then analysed the findings afterwards. As a planner, when you talk to people and you suddenly have a flash of ‘that’s exactly what it’s about’, it vindicates your whole purpose; being the voice of the consumer, when what the consumer is saying is right.
BETH (account handler): We kept on top of timings, were responsible for client contact, wrote the presentation, were involved in the strategy, and helped with the focus groups and research groups as well. We muddled in and did everything together really.
GUS (also an account handler): When you have such a small team for a pitch all your roles cross over and overlap. There are only five of you and you’ve only got three weeks, you do have to rely on one another.
LEWIS (creative): Creative pitch bitch. Worked with the planners on figuring out what we’re trying to say, what the whole strategy was with the whole team. Then we worked with the designers to develop the branding based on our positioning strategy.
ALEX (creative): Lewis and I were in charge of confusion. It was our job to take the brief, then get confused about it with the planners, account team and Creative Director. As soon as we focused the confusion down to a singular thought we then had to create more confusion in the form of creative ideas. These were then presented to the client in a clear, succinct fashion, totally devoid of confusion. I think. Is that right Lew?
HOW WAS THE PRESENTATION? NERVOUS?
LORNA: I was unbelievably nervous before – to the point of hysteria – but sat by myself and said ‘ok… you have to stop it’. Then Justin, Paul and Giles (our ExCo) walked in; Paul was eating a strawberry flavoured protein bar and Giles couldn’t decide whether to have English Breakfast or Earl Grey – I was most nervous about presenting to them rather than the client, but it made me realise they’re just people.
BETH: I was more nervous of presenting in front of our ExCo and mentors rather than the clients themselves. For the hour before, I just shut myself off from everyone else at my desk and did some other work just to do something else – I hate all the sitting around with everyone else who is nervous.
GUS: Personally I’m always more nervous in the rehearsals, I’m actually quite happy presenting. It’s the calm before the storm that I don’t like so I have to go away from everyone else for a while, and stroll. Also, because we had a really good tissue session with the client we knew they liked our strategy and ideas, so there wasn’t really a need to be nervous. We now have plenty of practice presenting – we’ve already pitched to the ExCo twice this year and I also had the opportunity to present to the Kellogg marketing team, which is pretty unusual for a grad.
LEWIS: Very nervous, more so presenting in front of the ExCo than the client. We had to practice a bit. You know you have to do it, I did cock up it up half way through, but you just have to laugh it off.
ALEX: Nervous? No. Not really. Actually, that’s a lie. Luckily my experiences of trying to become psychic at university, twinned with an all day workshop with Jack Black (the mind guru and motivational speaker, not the movie star) have provided me with highly tuned breathing techniques that prevent me from soiling myself.
WHAT WAS THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF THE PROCESS?
LORNA: The most difficult thing was that there were just so many things we could have said.
BETH: Presenting the strategy in a way that inspired the creative team.
GUS: Initially what was quite exciting was the lack of boundaries. However this was also possibly the hardest part of the project, as we had to define it ourselves.
LEWIS: Figuring out the positioning based on the research, because it could have gone a few different ways. We had to go round in circles a bit before we all kind of agreed what was right. But I think we got there in the end.
ALEX: The most difficult thing about the pitch process, for us, was delivering ourselves from confusion. The work we presented actually never seemed to be totally clear until the last moment and then it all clicked into place.
WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE NEXT TIME?
LORNA: If the outcome had been different, then there would probably be lots of things I would change. But we only got to the place we got to because of all the stuff that went wrong, so no I wouldn’t.
BETH: I don’t know if I would do anything differently, no, nothing. Our mentors were a bit concerned the week before…they did say how the hell did you turn it around?!
GUS: Different creative team? Different planner? I guess it’s easy to say in hindsight what you’d change. One thing is that it’s always a rush, always last minute, always a wish for more time.
ALEX: I had a really croakey voice that day, and I had a gag ready about “taking ‘working on a tone-of-voice’” too literally that I never used. So I would probably use that gag if I had another go.
ANY TIPS FOR US NEXT YEAR?
LORNA: Being as collaborative as possible. You should never make any final decisions without having talked to the account team, the creative, other planners. You’ll never come up with an answer that’s right if you do it on your own.
GUS: Trusting your own opinion, because you get so caught up in the work as you are thinking about it for 3 4 weeks every waking hour, you question everything. For the grad pitch, it’s designed as an opportunity to learn about the process, not as a new business exercise. It’s all about taking advantage of that opportunity. Do what you like. Don’t follow previous years. Do something quite exciting.
LEWIS: Don’t worry. Put the effort in and it’ll work out. With pitches I don’t think they are ever fully finished. It’s just to show you’re able to show you’re able and able to understand and work with the business.
ALEX: Good coloured socks is quite important. The devil is in the detail, as they say, and people always appreciate a pair of devilishly good socks. Otherwise – I would say relax. If possible. Remember, after all – it’s only advertising. On the whole, people will want to be blown away so the more you enjoy yourself the better it good. So chill out – it’s only your career!