Pitching Your Way Through The Cluster
As a student majors in Professional Communication, I’ve always been interested in the act of communicating, especially under the form of business. When it comes to our Advertising home field, I’m also curious about the pitching process, how we shall speak to the client in order to get the contract signed.
Photo 1. An advertising pitch. Reproduced from cartoonstock.com (n.d.)
To satisfy my curiosity, I contacted Mr. Nguyen Viet Dung from AiiM – Al Interactive Marketing Education, for an interview, after witnessing him throwing out an interesting presentation at RMIT University.
AiiM is a vocational school for marketers of all ages. It focuses on the growth of Digital Adverting in Vietnam. In this school, the students are being taken care of by the industrial experts like Mr. Dung.
Before taking the role of Business Director at AiiM, Mr. Dung has worked as Head of Strategic Planning at Climax Interactive Agency. His job was to master the transformation process from Insights to Ideation and make them big and bold by working closely with the clients and as well as account and creative people.
After some emails sent back and forth, I was able to make an appointment with him at a sushi restaurant.
It would be a lie to say I didn’t feel the pressure before going to the interview. Being impressed by how confident Dung was with his presentation as well as his job position, I thought he would be a somewhat strict guy. It turned out I had thought too much. Mr. Dung was a great guy, and a big help indeed! Soon after we settled down for some sushi rolls, he smiled and broke the awkward silence by asking me a few questions regarding the interview. Surprisingly, the interviewer being interviewed by the interviewee! In fact, it was one of the tips of giving a good speech that I’d mention later on.
Photo 2. The author and Mr. Nguyen Viet Dung at the interview – photo by the author (Vu 2013)
To start off, I asked him about his thoughts on communication in advertising between clients and agencies.
“In general, communication is the process of exchanging information between two objects to have a mutual understanding”, said Mr. Dung.
Photo 3. Communication. Reproduced from deepintolove.com (n.d.)
He then continued. “However, when it comes to advertising, it’s transformed into Commercial Communication – Communication for commercial purpose. It happens when a company communicates with a group of focused consumers to create changes in consumer’s mind and behaviors”.
Taking his point of view into account, I asked what it would be like when two companies ‘communicate’ for an ad campaign.
“It’s when the pitch comes in between. Two organizations talk and work together for a solution that work best for both consumer’s and producer’s side.” It aims at the win-win situation between you, the agency and them – your client. If you win the pitch, you get the business and your client gets the solution for their problem / opportunity. Basically, it’s collaboration between experts from different industries (Nguyen 2013).
With his experiences in working with both account people and clients, Mr. Dung had shared me some tips on how to give an effective pitch that could win you the contract.
Understand client’s problem in-depth
Photo 4. Research, research, and research. Reproduced from zagoumenov.com (n.d.)
Right after you get your hands on the brief and right before you get your brain work hard for the big idea; research, observe or get out and talk to people to clearly understand your client and the main obstacles that your communication campaign can change (Nguyen 2013). Mr. Dung reminds me of a strategy suggested by Solomon (2008) that an account person should live the client’s brand. As soon as you start speaking your client’s language, you’ll start to feel the real problems and it’s easier to come up with a good work this way. Furthermore, by understanding your client’s directions, you can develop ideas that fit their demands.
The beginning of my interview with Mr.Dung was started off this way as he asked me what I expected to know from him.
Give an idea that stick
After you have a clear understanding of what your client is either consciously or unconsciously expecting to see, you should be thinking of a big idea that fits the requirements. However, an idea that follows an instruction is not enough. As written in Chip and Dan Heath’s ‘Made to Stick’ book, a qualified idea should deliver some of these characteristics: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions and stories.
Photo 5. Good idea. Reproduced from atv.vn (n.d.)
Give rationale to support your idea
Photo 6. Rationale your decision. Reproduced from lolsnap.com (n.d.)
An argument wouldn’t be valid if it’s not supported with a list of evidences. So does an idea. You can’t persuade the client how good your idea is without a full list of rationales. For example, there was one time when Mr. Dung decided to use testimonials for a television product. The TV brand targeted middle – income family with kids. The agency told the client they chose an engineer to be the main representative for the TVC and testimonials because he fitted the target audience’s background. In other words, while presenting your idea to your client, explain it in details and as clear as you can. You should be able to answer the question ‘Why are we doing what we are doing?’ to your client and make your answer appropriated (Nguyen 2013).
Surprise your client if possible
One way to impress is to surprise. An agency should do more than what the client expects. (Nguyen 2013). This recommendation is similar to what Mr. Danny Vo has told us in his speech of Creative Leadership for our Client Management course’s video resources (Vo 2013). You can either give two to three alternative options for your core idea or make your concept big and bold enough to impress them. Personally, I think showing your client how deep you understand them can also create a great impact.
Photo 7. Surprise, surprise! Reproduced from gwinnettforum.com (n.d.)
Finally, to wrap up our talk, Mr. Dung suggested that we should set a goal for our pitches. We can’t expect to sell the whole idea within a pitch. We can only prove that we are better than the competitors and we are the best creative house for this job. Don’t stress out yourself because the pitch final result can be influenced by many elements (Nguyen 2013). Not winning a pitch doesn’t mean you’re a loser; because the success of a pitch is about an agency getting client crystal-clear understands and agrees with the proposal.
Word Count: 1077
Craig 2011, ‘Understanding’, image, http://www.deepintolove.com, 08 February, viewed 10 May 2013, <http://www.deepintolove.com/2011/02/08/love-seeks-to-understand-why-of-the-do/>.
Dcrn1104 n.d., ‘Ad Agency cartoon 1’, image, http://www.cartoonstock.com, viewed 12 May 2013, <http://www.cartoonstock.com/directory/a/ad_agency.asp>.
Dtkoanh 2012, ‘Good Idea’, image, http://www.atv.vn, 25 July, viewed 11 May 2013, <http://atv.vn/nha-to/tin-tuc/hanoi-aptechbien-y-tuong-thanh-kiet-tac-dien-anh-khong-kho.html>.
Gwinnettforum.com n.d., ‘Surprise, surprise.’, image, http://www.gwinnettforum.com, viewed 13 May 2013, <http://www.gwinnettforum.com/2006issues/06.0616.htm>.
Heath, C & D 2008, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Take Hold and Others Come Unstuck, Arrow Books, UK.
Solomon, R 2008, The art of client service, Kaplan Publishing, New York, USA.
Vo, D 2012, ‘Leadership & Management in Creative Industries’, guest lecture in COMM2384 Client Management, 20 November, RMIT University, Vietnam, viewed 07 May 2013, Blackboard@RMIT.
Student: Vu Thi Minh Khanh