I love pitches.
I love the adrenaline.
I love the tension.
I love the brutal focus on a client problem and the relentless concentration on a strategic and creative solution.
I love working out how best to tell the story that sells the strategy and creative ideas.
I've wanted to meet David Magliano since reading the chapter on the London 2012 bid in Jon Steel's excellent book, Perfect Pitch (best book I have read on how to pitch and win) David's pitch strategy for the bid is a world-class example. He talked at an event at the IPA on the 27th as part of their "Pitching Legends" series. What a speaker! If you ever get the chance to go and hear him talk move mountains to do so - you really won't regret it.
I am going to try and encapsulate his story and share what I took out.
The first thing that David asked the audience to do was to think about the audience, the members of the IOC. He wanted us to put themselves in their shoes. He then showed us the first 30' of each potential host cities opening video - Paris, Rio, Madrid, Moscow, New York and finally London. Each video felt like a love story to a city - beautiful, stirring, emotional. Expansive cityscape shots, fly over views and smiling friendly people. London on the other hand started with footage of a sprinter at the beginning of a race and then showed the story going backwards to that moment when as young child in Africa this boy was inspired by grainy footage that he was seeing on a TV screen of London 2012. This wasn't a film selling a city, this was a film selling a vision - a vision of using the power of a London games to inspire young people all over the world to choose sport, a vision of re-connecting the ideals of the Olympic movement to millions of young people and a vision of legacy. It dramatized a problem and showcased a solution.
It still amazes me that so often agencies still choose to start their pitch with their credentials, Magliano calls it "the plumbing." He said "I trust that you have offices in the right place." Get to the heart of your thought right from the start, build that emotional connection from the outset, show you understand the problem, demonstrate empathy and understanding and then work from there.
The London 2012 bid script was so tight, each word was important. not a single word was extraneous. There was one phrase in particular that I just loved: "As leaders we have a duty to reach beyond our own time and borders." It's beautiful, like poetry even. It also makes the audience feel that its not a choice between cities, its a vote for the belief in the lasting legacy that the Games can bring. "What city," they asked, "has the vision that best serves the Olympic vision?"
In the Q&A David was asked how they could prove that London was more likely to inspire young people than New York or Paris. David's response was fascinating. "We didn't have to prove it because no-one else claimed it." I asked whether any other city had a similar singled minded thought that there pitch was based on, he said no and that they all had multiple messages and all sold the city, not an aspiration.
Some other take outs - Authentic stories not just research facts: Seb's story of being 12 and being taken in a school hall to watch the Mexico City Olympics was hugely moving because it was authentic and because it turned Seb into a walking case study of what the London 2012 team were hoping to achieve around the world. Seb also talked about the fact that his heros were Olympics, "my children's heros change every month." Every parents or grandparent in the IOC must have been nodding along. 'But we must understand and respond to their world."
Know your audiences and tailor your messages: On the night before the bid the London 2012 team had a list of the floating voters (mainly the South Americans) who they needed to convert. Blair took a suite on the 55th floor of the convention centre and as each floating voter was coming up in the lift, he was being texted to say what hot buttons to push. Did this IOC member care most about the legacy in the UK of their particular sport, were they passionate about sustainability, did their grandchild just want a kick around with Beckham. They had all the options covered.
Ownership: Let one person write the script of the pitch, the "narrative arch", rather than each presenter write their own little bit and then worry how to piece it together. Its one story, with different parts voiced by different people. Think of it like a script for a play.
It was a night of illuminating anecdotes about the pitch - for example, when London and Paris when back into the conference hall to find out the result there were 57 photographers stationed in front of the Parisian team and only 3 in front of the London team, apparently in some TV footage you see photographers fighting and scrambling to get over to get pictures of the victors, so utterly convinced was everyone that Paris had won. David talked about the fact that they used images of Tony and Cherie Blair at the opening ceremony of the Athens 2004 Games, because Chirac and Bush had both decided that post 2001 the security risks were too great and had not gone. Simply by showing this image as part of a much longer film the IOC were being subtly reminded that GB was always an active supporter of the Olympic movement. Fascinating. Final anecdote, the strategy about inspiring a generation actually came out of an insight into a business problem that the IOC had, namely an aging TV viewing population which was less attractive for broadcasters and advertisers, so originally the strategy had been to get more young people watch the Games than ever before. It was Seb who made the strategic leap to say that actually its not about getting young people viewing, its about getting young people viewing.
I will find out if the event was videoed and post a link if it was.