Pitching Legends – An Evening With Robin Wight and Claire Beale at the IPA

Pitching Legends – An Evening With Robin Wight and Claire Beale at the IPA

Move over John Hegarty I have a new advertising hero. I just never expected him to be wearing a shirt so loud it needed a license and a suit the colour of Barney the Dinosaur.

If the first rule of advertising is to get noticed, Robin Wight, the W in WCRS certainly practices what he preaches. So, why did he make such an impression on me? An ad nut from an early age, his first tagline for a road safety campaign - 'Drive at 30. Live til 70. Drive at 70. Live til 30' -was written at the tender age of 10!

Now approaching the upper end of that scale, Robin is a writer by trade who crafted his skill in the hey-day of TV advertising when jingles ('Re-record not fade away' for Scotch video tapes) and memorable straplines ("I bet he drinks Carling Black Label") were the cultural reference points shared by millions. But what can one of the original British Mad Men teach us about today's communication landscape?

Aside from the obvious affection held for him by colleagues young - and not so - in the audience, Robin talked unapologetically and candidly on the night's subject; Pitch Legends. On the issue of pitch-winning tag-lines for example, Robin talked articulately about respecting brand archaeology and heritage. Or to put it another way, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it!' Not even in a pitch. Something that led him to recommend BMW use the same line in the UK (The Ultimate Driving Machine) that the company already used in the US. He also praised Adam & Eve for keeping the WCRS line for Phones4U in their latest campaign.  Also, he was positively thrilled with the re-vamped WCRS Churchill ad in which the dog is driven around town by Martin Clunes to the tune of Bonnie Tyler's 'I need a hero'. At the end, it is Martin not Churchill who has the famous 'Oh yes' line. Refreshing, funny, but heritage in tact.

When asked whether planners get in the way in pitches (asked by a planner btw), he not only refuted the suggestion but said that he saw himself as a planner. Indeed, back in the day when no creative work was ever presented at pitches, strategy was all there was. I think we can all learn something from that.

And then to my own question. One that anyone who works at an integrated agency like WCRS (and TMW) can appreciate, "When your agency offers such a wide selection of skill sets, and clients come to you with challenges and not specific channel briefs, who exactly do you invite to the initial pitch meeting?"

His answer was diplomatically inclusive, saying that it is a mix of gut feel and existing client relationships (ie did the lead come from the PR agency or digital guys etc…), but that at WCRS, 'We are prepared to change the focus at any time during the pitch if necessary." Not totally satisfied with the answer, I pushed him to answer, "Who exactly was 'WE'?" Greeted with a ripple of laughter from those in the know, Robin's emphatic answer was 'Debbie'. (Engine's Chief Executive Chairman).

So all in all what were Robin's top tips for winning pitches? Of the 13 point plan (of which number eight was mysteriously missing) the key ones for me were firstly to investigate the client's product. There still seems to be no substitute for visiting the factory. Secondly show you understand the brand. Thirdly don't just say why your recommended strategy will work, say why others they may see won't. And numbers 12 and 13. Enthusiasm. If you're not enthusiastic about their business, another agency will be. When you're up against the best agencies in town, that may be your only competitive advantage. So don't forget genuine enthusiasm is worth a bucket load of PowerPoint slides.


  • Great post Daren and what a treat to hear the great man. He' s so right on the 'enthusiasm' and 'visit the factory' stuff as a possible source of competitive advantage. Did he tell the story of pitching for Orange and working in the store for 5 days, summarizing the most common customer questions and problems before the pitch?
    chris pearce - 25/05/2012