News Analysis: Can 'living the brand' help in a pitch?

Wildfire PR last week bagged a tech brief in a pitch conducted via the client's online 'meeting service'. Six agency PROs tell Alex Black how they have put a client's product at the centre of a pitch - with mixed results.



Debby PENTON, MD of Wildfire PR:
‘We met Citrix Online face-to-face before the formal pitches were held, but when we were shortlisted they asked us to use their GoToMeeting service. This meant we could pitch to their US team, particularly Citrix’s Santa Barbara-based CEO.

‘The system works like an online conference call, but you can share desktops, so we could open up our PowerPoint presentation and Excel spreadsheets and go through it with them. We did it twice because the CEO couldn’t make the first one, and during one the UK MD was listening in. ‘It doesn’t beat being able to see the whites of their eyes, but it certainly demonstrated our understanding of the product.’


Stefan K. LEPKOWSKI, managing consultant, Karol Marketing Group:
‘Two years ago we pitched for Darlington Borough Council’s local transport campaign.

I drove to meet them before the pitch and got stuck in a traffic jam.


‘I got our team on bicycles and found them pretty reluctant. Some were worried about their make-up, others about their high heels, others about getting their clothes stuck in the chain, but they loved it once they’d used the bikes a few times. I realised this was the sort of attitude the council was facing from the public.

‘In the end we took the client across town on foot and by bus before doing the final part by bike. It showed we were living the brief, and it struck a chord.’

3. LOVEFiLM/Mischief

Mitchell KAYE, MD of Mischief:LOVEFiLM is a film rental company that sends out DVDs in the post, so we filmed our pitch before its team arrived. When they got to our office we presented them with one of their branded envelopes – inside was a DVD containing our pitch.

‘LOVEFiLM members watch DVDs at home, so we then sat them down in a recreated living room, fed them steak and kidney pie and popcorn, and played the pitch on a big screen. The film had voice-overs and Star Wars-style rolling credits at the beginning.

‘It was high-risk as there is always a danger you can be seen as too gimmicky, but it reflected the product. ‘You can’t always make a product central to a pitch, but in this case we took a gamble and it worked.’

4. BERGHAUS/Communique

Communique MD, Nigel SARBUTTS: ‘In the late 1990s, Communique was invited to pitch for outdoor sports brand Berghaus.

‘However, the twist was that the pitch details had to be collected from the top of a nearby mountain.

Agencies had to go along to a store, get kitted out in Berghaus gear and collect a grid reference. They then had to get an Ordnance Survey map and go and find the Berghaus team using the grid reference. Only when they reached the top of the mountain would they be given the full brief.

‘The actual pitch was conducted in a warmer indoor setting. I’m glad to say that we won.’


1. CAFÉSLIM/ Fleishman-Hillard

Louisa JENKINS, consumer director, Fleishman-Hillard: ‘A couple of years ago we pitched for online dieting club CaféSlim (now Closer Diets).

We decided it would be a good idea to actually join one of the schemes, so three of us (all female) signed up.


‘When it came to the pitch we were able to present ourselves as CaféSlim customers and talk about the product in depth. We were pretty honest about what we thought they needed to do, but in the end we didn’t get it.

‘That was galling enough, but we then realised we had another two months of the programme to go.’

‘I have to admit that our motivation to see the diet programme through dropped sharply after that.’

2. ‘Unnamed hotel group’/Nexus Communications

Jim HORSLEY, former CEO of Nexus Communications, and now managing partner of What Next?: ‘Years ago I repitched to a hotel group and felt we needed direct feedback about the hotels. So I hired two actors and sent them along as “customers” the day before we were due to present.

‘They stayed in the rooms and used all the facilities. The next day we brought the actors into the pitch and had them discuss their experience of the hotel with each other as if we weren’t there.

The client then questioned them while they were in character, and the actors wove our research into their answers. We lost.’

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