Filed under: Advertising [Planning] School On The Web
So it’s finally here and about time too.
I can only apologise for how slack I’ve been because all other excuses are basically out-the-window or out-of-date.
I feel particularly bad because this challenge required you to make a greater effort than some of my previous assignments – so for me to take so long to get back to you is pretty fucking disrespectful, as I have been told by every one of the fellow judges, especially Mr Mean – also known as Northern Groper.
So here we are, decision time.
First of all I want to thank everyone who had a go … it was in essence, a double assignment, as you had to not only develop an idea that would help Head & Shoulders be the shampoo of choice for men, regardless of dandruff issues, but you had to present it on video, as if you were pitching to judges in the flesh.
The bad news?
No one would have got the business.
Because you either didn’t present your idea clearly enough or we didn’t buy your idea … especially those pitches that sounded suspiciously more like an execution than a strategy that could encourage a change in behaviour and/or attitude.
Of course we could have ignored the ‘idea’ element of the assignment and just gone with whatever we deemed the best presentation – however that would be wrong because even though in the real World some sad/bad/mad clients [delete as appropriate, but if I were you, I’d leave it exactly as it is] choose style over substance, we absolutely, wholeheartedly and fundamentally believe that is wrong … not just interms of overall professionalism but in terms of doing the right thing for your business, be it agency side or client.
Saying that, each of the entries had good points in them and so what I’ll do now is go through everyone’s submission one-by-one and then announce the ‘winner’ … but only of the assignment, not of the pitch, ha!
Oh, hang on, I should just do some housekeeping before we get to that.
First of all the brief:
“How can ‘Head & Shoulders’ shampoo be seen as the brand men [18-35] should use every day, rather than just on the occasions they think they have a dandruff issue”
[No additional supporting material was allowed to be entered and the video could not exceed 10 minutes in duration]
Now the judging criteria:
Quality of thinking
Quality of strategy/core idea
Clarity of presentation
Infectiousness of idea
Magnetism of presentation
Finally a little note about the videos …
Normally on the A[P]SOTW we put the submissions up for everyone to see however because this assignment was a bit more intimate, we gave people the chance for their ‘pitch’ to be kept private.
Because all this happened mid-move to Shanghai, I have lost the emails that told me who was OK with showing their preso and who wasn’t … so to be on the safe side, I’m not putting any up … however if the people who made their videos are kind enough to say they can be shown, I’ll put the links up at a later date.
Got all that?
Cool … OK, enough of this annoying waffle, let’s get to the good stuff.
Ladies and gentlemen … boys and girls … please welcome, MADISON
Before I get to your evaluation, I have to say your commitment to the cause [doing the assignment mere days after giving birth to your wonderful bundle of cuteness] was universally applauded.
Infact one of the judges was so impressed, that he wondered out loud whether he should use that strategy in his new business pitches – however after it was pointed out that he sounded like a callous bastard, we decided that regardless of the result, we wanted to send you a little pressie to congratulate you on your baby, so if you send me your address, I’ll get something sorted.
OK .. so now to your presentation/submission.
So the approach of your presentation was rather unique given you included your new born in the ‘show’ … however we ignored that brilliant piece of guilt-tripping strategy because we felt it wasn’t exactly feasible to have just born babies attend every presentation.
Interms of the delivery and quality of your strategy …
We all felt your thinking was clear – with good male grooming insights and category clichés – and by putting key messages on boards, you ensured the audience understood your thinking every step of the way … however no one really felt the concept of ‘wingman’ was going to deliver the change the brief required because no one felt it was quite right for shampoo, so whilst we found the whole experience entertaining, you didn’t win the pitch.
We all felt there was some good stuff in your presentation, but your delivery had a lot to be desired.
Overall it felt like a nice chat, rather than clear, well thought-out and structured argument and while there’s something to be said for the informal approach, yours was bordering on feeling like a night spent consuming hashcakes in Amsterdam.
If you want to hold an audience’s attention, it is vital you find a hook –that might be creating an overall theme for your presentation, using props or just delivering it in a more dynamic style.
In terms of strategy, we liked how you framed the competition as tough, but you didn’t really indicate how you were going to turn their strengths into a weakness and we struggled to see what the big strategic idea was within all this..
We did find your thought of ‘owning the shower’ as an interesting objective but you didn’t explain your strategy to achieve that – at least not in our mind.
Overall we’re left not being quite sure what your key strategy is and part of the reason for that is – like this blog – you went off on a bunch of tangents and never really gave an explanation for some of them, at least in the context of your idea.
We’re not sure if you do/did this, but we think it would help if you mapped out the story of your presentation before hand and spent time really evaluating what information will help ‘sell’ your strategy and what are superfluous, regardless how interesting they may appear to be,
From a very shaky start – ie: all the judges HATED rap music – you ended up impressing many of the judges,
Bad music aside, your introduction got our attention and whilst your delivery was quite Keanu Reeves [ie: stiff], the use of the TV prop really helped as it allowed you to structure and communicate your presentation into bit sized pieces
We liked that you got to the heart of the problem – make Head & Shoulders about more than just dandruff – and you were very clear about the different kinds of bathroom experience.
There were some statements that the judges felt were ‘obviousness expressed as insight’ and you didn’t clearly articulate who specifically you were talking to and their lifestyle/circumstances, but overall we got a good impression that you were not only genuinely tackling the brands problem, but wanted to address it in a way that changed behaviour.
If this was a pitch, you would certainly get into the 2nd round as your entry raised only positive comment, with a couple of the judges saying the idea – even though it may not increase sustained usage – was definitely very interesting and worth a much closer look.
It was very interesting – and a bit worrying – that after watching your submission, a number of judges said “there was no way you were in advertising”.
The reason for that was that they felt your presentation and strategy was expressed in a way that didn’t feel like it was leading up to an execution but a clearly defined strategy focused on the business issue [which is worth remembering for all planners out there]
Overall the judges felt your ‘pitch’ was very clear and measured and by addling a number of examples, you ensured what you were trying to say was understood and relevant,
Infact it was all going so well until you got to explaining your ‘big idea’ … because it just seemed pretty flat after such a simmering build up.
It is these occasions that adding some drama to your pitch could make a huge difference.
Whether that is through the use of props or simply voice control is open to debate – but having had all the judges listen intently to what you were saying, it was here where you started to not just lose them, but also their interest.
We felt you uncovered a really good that led to you being able to articulate an interesting problem to focus on, however one of the judges did say Head and Shoulders had done that before with a campaign that said, “I didn’t know you had dandruff? I don’t”
The ‘Sleeper Cell’ idea is interesting but it was around this time you made your 2nd mistake.
Talking through average scripts is a big no-no.
Actually, talking through any script is a big no-no fullstop.
While the idea in your scripts had some merit, most of the judges also said that “there was no way you’re a copywriter”.
From having people in the palm of your hand, the articulation of your core idea and the decidedly average scripts let you down.
People felt you appeared smart and trustworthy and with your thinking and insight, you would definitely get into the 2nd round, but whilst you were very clear about your objective, you were sadly less clear about the solution and it was made worse by trying to sell an ad that was obviously not developed by someone who actually writes ads for a living. [More than one judge said it was basically a bad AXE ad, just for hair]
Know what you’re bad at … and either collaborate on those things or avoid them in your presentation.
Do that and you could be very strong indeed.
This is one of those things that probably sounded like a good idea at the time, but you’ll wish you hadn’t done it in the future.
The problem lies purely in one element: you tried to pull off the sort of presentation that only the highly accomplished and experienced can embark on. And even then, many fail.
We all felt that if we met you in a bar and you presented to us in your natural manner, we’d like you … but for all the bravery it takes to try and pull off a ‘really there, when you’re not’ video performance, you shouldn’t have done it because we spent more time watching your stilted acting style than listening to what you said.
Interms of the actual content … we liked how you summed it all up as “unbelievable, exaggeration, trying to be something it’s not” … however when you started talking about the solution we got a bit confused [especially Rebecca because she was actually involved in the making of ‘Fight Club’] because we weren’t sure exactly what you were trying to say was the opportunity for Head & Shoulders.
All in all, presentation style aside, you raised some interesting points – but the thinking flow was not as clear as it should/could [think props or key heading boards next time] and the solution left us scratching our heads as much as dandruff would.
One judge said of your submission that it was “more of a filming of a presentation than a filmed presentation” … and whilst the visuals certainly helped make a stronger connection, there was the feeling it was the sort of thing you’d watch late at night on BBC 2 rather than sit there and experience in the flesh.
That sounds harsh – especially as so much of it was at a very high standard, including the overall film quality – but there was this feeling you were holding back from showing your true personality, or as one judge said, “Why is she acting like a politician?”
As for the content, well the thinking was good – we all liked how you looked outside the core category and into the culture of men – which is much more interesting to hear and much more fertile for possible solutions.
We liked that you had obviously done your background (“Head and Shoulders: Above The Rest”) and expressed it in a relevant way for today, we liked your use of slides as a support rather than a crutch and we LOVED that you talked about things like packaging rather than bloody executions, but some of your references to convey your idea felt like they’d you’d just spent the day reading trendwatching and wanted to get in the new stuff you learnt come hell or high water.
Without doubt you showed great analysis of their current communications as well as great thinking/understanding on what it means to be a man today … so overall it was a very, very well received pitch but with your talent, experience and standards we should not expect anything less. [Ha!]
On one side, we loved the way you interrogated the brief and really got under the skin of the audience … but on the other we felt you didn’t actually answer the brief, despite taking us on a journey.
The other issue was the presentation energy. In short, there wasn’t any.
Given I know you, I can only assume you had just got back from a very longwinded flight because the overall feeling was you were a little “sleepy”.
You did identify a behaviour that could unlock new opportunities for the brand and we’d of loved to see that explored and exploded, but you don’t actually suggest an idea, you just seemingly point out opportunities and/or insights.
The general consensus was that you had something to say, you just hadn’t worked out how to do it and so instead, decided to adopt a strategy of throw a bunch of things at us and hope to impress us with variety.
Sadly that didn’t quite work.
So there you go, 7 entries, 7 judgements.
As I said at the start of this looooooooooooooooooong post, if this was a real pitch, no one would get awarded the business though a few would get into the 2nd round and the others would be thought of as having snippets of intrigue, but not enough to lose sleep over it.
The key issues for our view is that :
1/ Very few of you built your case in relation to the brief. Yes we all knew what it was, by highlighting how certain elements address certain aspects of the brief can go a long way.
2/ Even fewer gave any form of evidence to back up your assumptions.
Many clients starting point is – sadly – “we don’t believe you”, so don’t give them any more ammunition in this view.
3/ There was very little personality coming through in the presentations – or it was so over-the-top as to be distracting.
Being engaging isn’t about flash or ceremony, it’s about being charming, interesting, enthusiastic and real. [read: human]
4/ This was a brief about changing behaviour, yet no one really spent any time examining why the behaviour of today exists or what we need to do to change the fundamental behaviour to achieve what we want. Some touched on it, but not as much as they could have or should have.
I know this all sounds quite tough – and maybe it’s come across a bit harsher than we mean – but we approach A[P]SOTW with the view to help you be better and so the comments are hopefully constructive rather than destructive.
[Saying that, I was quite disappointed that the 'A[P]SOTW lite’ assignment put together by Mr M was so poorly embraced. I know it was the World Cup and all, but it was a great challenge to sink your teeth into]
So after a lot of consideration and quite a lot of debate – especially on those pitches that we felt were very strong bar one or two things – we felt the best overall pitch was Rob.
By an inch.
So well done Rob… but don’t get too cocky because it’s worth remembering the judges didn’t feel it was good enough to actually win the pitch, just to get through to round 2 and even then, they’d tell you to re-do the ads. With a real creative.
Still, you’re a worthy winner and as I am seeing you in a week or 2, I will give you your prize [probably copious amounts of beer] when I see you.
Again, huge apologies for the delay in getting this back to you – I realise that when I set the assignment, I was living in another country and working in another company so it’s really been way too long – however if the lovely Northern [Groper] and Gareth Kay ever allow me to do one of these again, I promise I will not let there be such a long delay between submission date and response.
I’m not sure who is doing the next one – maybe Northern – but I hope you find these assignments useful because, whilst none of us would claim to be the best ‘role models’[hahahaha, I can’t believe I typed that] I think there’s the odd bit of common sense that comes out our mouths. Well Northern, Gareth and the judges.
Whilst the old adage says ‘practice makes perfect’, there are some tricks to aid in the development of your presentation chops.
1/ Go and see other presenters.
This could be at conferences or on things like TED – but look and listen at what they do and see if you can identify the elements that helps hold people’s attention beyond just the content of their pitch. [Which obviously is also vitally important]
2/ Study the great monologue actors.
For me, one of the greatest ever film speeches is delivered by Al Pacino in Oliver Stone’s ‘Any Given Sunday’. It’s not because of the subject matter per se [It’s about American Football – a sport I can’t be bothered to even try and fully understand] it’s because he tells a story that is dramatised through his inflections and pauses.
Sure, he is one of the World’s greats, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pick up some tips in how to ensure people keep their eyes and ears on you.
If Al Pacino is too much for you to handle, look for any movie with a high court element – mainly because in my mind, barristers are some of the greatest presenters you could ever hope to emulate.
3/ Go to acting class or improv.
As some of my planners are about to find out, acting class/improv can make a huge difference to the quality of your presenting skills.
While many people say you should always ‘be yourself’ I disagree.
Well, let me clarify that … I believe we all have multiple expressions of our personality and the secret is to always choose the one that best matches your audience … or as my Father – one of the great communicators of our time – said… “always make sure your approach matches your audience.”
That doesn’t mean you start talking in an American accent if you’re presenting to an American client … it means you alter your delivery and language to best suit the characteristics of the audience … so if you’re talking to a room full of bankers, you’d probably use more technical expressions and a firm, authorative voice, however if you’re talking to a room full of models [I wish], you’d use monosybalic words and snort coke between sentences.
The thing is, for some people, doing a presentation is one of the scariest things they can imagine doing – so the secret is to pretend you’re someone else.
Maybe you’re a lawyer about to make your final analysis.
Maybe you’re a football manager at half time.
Maybe you’re just your friend who always seems to be confident in what they do.
Don’t laugh, it can help and acting class can not only help you do this, but can give you the confidence to know you’re not making a fool of yourself at a meeting.
However even if you quite enjoy presenting, acting class and improv can make a difference.
It can teach you the skill of voice control … the power of the pause … the warmth of emotion … in short acting class and improv can help turn you from speaker to presenter in the best sense of the word.
I know it might sound weird, but the reality is if you can present well, it not only can make a good bit of thinking come across as an amazing opportunity to grasp [as Steve Jobs does with skill and panache, especially when he describes iPhone features that have been available on competitive products for years, as if they’ve literally been invented by Apple] it can help further your career so whilst the thought of some short-term embarrassment may sound horrendous, it can’t be nearly as bad as a long-term period of disappointment.
Yep, I honestly believe the ramifications have the potential to be that serious …
On that bombshell, I’m going to bow-out disgracefully so have a great weekend and I’ll see you on Monday … though if you have any sense you’ll keep well away.
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