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OFFICE • RETAIL • GROUP Saturday 21st June 2014

PITCHING A SITCOM

I once saw an interview with Simon Nye – the guy who wrote Men Behaving Badly. He was asked what made a successful TV sitcom. 

He said that the secret was that you never had to be more than a minute away from the next laugh, and that ideally you should feel physically attracted to at least one of the characters in the show. On the basis of the latter you have to think he was pretty brave casting Martin Clunes in MBB but there you go, I suppose it takes all sorts.

The reason I bring this up is that I often think of these principles when I’m sitting in a series of development marketing pitches. Every time we land the agency gig on a big scheme there’s the inevitable procession of marketing consultants pitching to do the brochure, the website, the launch event, the social media, the give-away mug/USB stick/stress toy etc etc.

And it’s a stress toy that you need to get you through these pitches. For a start-off, I always think we see too many people (we had seven agencies pitch for a recent job). It all becomes a blur of ‘market penetration, heliotrope accents and vegetarian meal options’. 

And it’s all so bloody serious. Let’s be honest, creative marketeers (or ‘the guys with crayons’ as our senior partner likes to call them) can incline to the pretentious. I know they want to show that they’re taking the job seriously but, even so, where’s 

the energy, the fun, the recognition that what we’re doing here is marketing a building not forming a new religion?

So while reflecting on this I realised that marketing pitches can be a bit like sitcoms. The agencies usually ‘bring the family’: there’s the senior ‘Mum/Dad’ figure (that’s what ‘MD’ stands for) and then there’s the kids (‘Sam is our senior designer and Lucy would be your account manager’). 

And like all good sitcoms, there are misunderstandings aplenty (‘It’s an office project not retail’) and so hilarity ensues…

Three of us from here usually sit in on the pitches which is a disaster as M***** is openly hostile to the whole concept of marketing consultants. He always does the same thing: he waits until the presentation is finished and then says:‘It’s the wrong colour’. 

No matter how much the ‘creatives’ then probe this statement or suggest alternatives, my colleague maintains a sphinx-like silence.

Anyway, having accepted that using Nye’s other principle about feeling physically attracted to a chosen supplier might be a tad unprofessional, I’ve had an epiphany about appointing development marketing consultants: let’s just go to the people who we know can do the job and do it well. 

We don’t ask our lawyers to re-pitch every time we need them to work on a project (and god knows none of that lot make me laugh or get me hot). Track record and capability is what counts.

I put this strategy to my colleagues and they were appalled at the idea. “But it’s so much fun watching the pitches – and it makes us look busy,” said one.

And so – in this firm at least – a much-loved property sitcom looks set to run and run…

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