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
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
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.