Two of the most perceptive things I heard on pitching came from John Hegarty.

No surprise there then.

John was talking about opening up BBH in New York.

He said they started by doing their pitching the traditional English way.

A brief introduction about who BBH were and who their clients were.

Then straight into the pitch.

The analysis of the client’s problem.

The synthesis of the insight and the brief.

Finally the actual work itself.

Just the same way everyone always does it.

John said he noticed that they were losing the client’s attention fairly early on in the process.

Being American, they didn’t know who BBH were or why they should listen to them.

Especially as what they were saying was different to the other agencies.

John knew they needed to find a way to make clients sit up and pay attention.

To make sure that the BBH name and brand carried some weight.

That way their recommendations would, too.

And John remembered something he’d heard about the film ‘Ghandi’.

Richard Attenborough knew that most Americans didn’t know who Ghandi was, or why they should care.

And they weren’t going to sit through a three hour film waiting to find out.

Attenborough knew he needed to give them a reason to pay attention.

So he moved the funeral scene from the end of the movie to the front.

So the first thing the audience sees is a million people.

An entire city jam-packed with people weeping and wailing at this great man’s funeral.

That tells the audience right upfront that this was a fantastically important person.

And everything that follows is therefore worth paying attention to.

John thought he’d do the same thing for BBH.

He’d put the reason to pay attention right up front.

And so, before the pitch started, John would say to the clients “You probably don’t know a lot about us, so we’d just like to show you a short reel of some of the work we’ve done.”

Then they’d play a ten minute reel of amazingly famous, stunning, award-winning work.

And the client’s reaction to each commercial was “You did that? I love that, that’s amazing.”

Then, after the reel was finished, and they had the client’s full attention, they could begin the actual pitch.

Just like Ghandi’s funeral.

What’s really perceptive about that is understanding that context is everything.

For consumers and clients.

Supposing the client doesn’t know who you are, and you say something different to everyone else.

That probably means you’re not as good as the rest.

Now suppose the client knows you’re brilliant and you say something different to everyone else.

That probably means you’re better than the rest.

Just like advertising, the thing to do is understand the context before you start.

So you can dominate it and direct it.

And BBH have always been way ahead of everyone else at that.

John explained Nigel’s view of the BBH brand.

“Agencies are all willing to do everything for everyone.

Whatever your product, your brand, your budget, your corporate policy, your rules, they’ll do it.

If you think of agencies as shops, everyone’s on Oxford Street, selling everything to everyone.


No one’s in Bond Street, that’s where we should be.”