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On the Campaign couch

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Reportedly, French agencies open their new-business presentations with their idea and then spend the rest of the time explaining why it’s a good one – they go from ‘narrow to wide’. On the other hand, we go from ‘wide to narrow’ – a big review of the market background, research we’ve done, insight we’ve had etc, etc, until the big reveal of the idea at the end. You used to do lots of pitches, and I wonder which approach worked best for you?

I’d be interested to hear if this reported French procedure is reported accurately. To the Anglo-Saxon mind, it seems a bit perverse.

I’ve always thought that the best presentations of new creative material have something in common with the last chapter of a classic English detective story. In both, the search is on for a solution.

In the case of the detective story, all the protagonists are gathered in the library; the nature of the crime is known to all; and most of them will be secretly harbouring their own very different suspicions about the identity of the perpetrator.

There is tension in the air; they have been waiting some time for this moment. The floor is held by the detective.

The detective is in no hurry. If it’s not Miss Marple, it will be a man. He will consciously have tried to put himself into the mind of each member of his audience.

In turn, he examines the strength of the case against each suspect. At first, in every instance, the evidence seems compelling; until, in turn, he reveals one new and incontrovertible piece of reasoning that instantly renders each case untenable. One by one, the possibilities are scrupulously examined; and, one by one, they are dismissed and discarded. The tension in the room heightens.

"So, where does that leave us?" the detective says. "It leaves us with the certainty that, in all these suppositions, in all these hypotheses, we must have neglected to take into account one crucial fact; one fundamental truth about the nature of the human psyche."

And as soon as this truth – this insight – is revealed, it immediately opens up a line of enquiry that had previously been thought to be barren.

And so it is that the identity of the murderer is finally disclosed; a disclosure as unexpected as it’s seen to be instantly, self-evidently the right one.

In the case of the new-business presentation, all the protagonists are gathered in the meeting room; the nature of the problem is known to all; and most of them (prompted by earlier presentations from rival agencies) will be secretly harbouring their own very different suspicions about the perfect solution.

There is tension in the air; they have been waiting some time for this moment. The floor is held by the creative director.

The creative director is in no hurry. If it’s not Kate Stanners, it will be a man. He will consciously have tried to put himself into the mind of each member of his audience.

In turn, he examines the strength of the case for each solution. At first, in every instance, the evidence seems compelling; until, in turn, he reveals one new and incontrovertible piece of reasoning that instantly renders each case untenable. One by one, the possibilities are scrupulously examined; and, one by one, they are dismissed and discarded. He takes particular care to dismiss and discard those solutions almost certainly proposed by rival agencies. The tension in the room heightens.

"So, where does that leave us?" the creative director says. "It leaves us with the certainty that, in all these suppositions, in all these hypotheses, we must have neglected to take into account one crucial fact; one fundamental truth about the nature of this market and the human psyche."

And as soon as this truth – this insight – is revealed, it immediately opens up a line of enquiry that had previously been thought to be barren.

And so it is that the recommended solution to the brief is finally disclosed; a disclosure as unexpected as it’s seen to be instantly, self-evidently the right one.

I suppose it’s possible that French detective stories open with the disclosure that the valet did it. But they can’t be very suspenseful.

"Ask Jeremy", a collection of Jeremy Bullmore’s Campaign columns, is available from Haymarket, priced £10.Telephone (020) 8267 4919
Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via campaign@haymarket.com or Campaign, Teddington Studios, Broom Road, Teddington, TW11 9BE

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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