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Execution's the Key

It’s a peculiarity of our profession that clients hire us for our creative ideas but don’t pay for them. What they pay for is our time, usually (but not always) denominated in hours per month.

How often do the great creative ideas we present in a new business pitch actually get executed? I have asked this question a hundred times and the answer is: hardly ever.

This must tell us something about the difference between winning a new client and keeping them.

General James F. Hollingsworth: ‘Any damned fool can write a plan. It’s the execution that gets you screwed up’

Harris/Insight used to ask US PR clients why they chose one agency rather than another. The top three replies were (always): track record, chemistry, creativity.

They also asked why clients stuck with their agencies. The answers were completely different: punctuality, accurate spelling, accessibility on the phone, quick response, correct invoices… what look to me like hygiene factors.

Could it be that what clients want to see in a presentation is a display of creativity rather than a practical solution to the problem they have described in their brief?

One formula is bronze, silver, gold. Bronze is the idea which we know won’t scare them – it’s affordable, feasible and a bit dull. Silver is more adventurous: it pushes the cultural and budgetary boundaries and – if they activate any of our ideas – it will be this one. Gold is spectacular: the client is meant to rock back on their seat with astonishment and think: ‘Wow! If only we could do that!’

Having knocked their socks off we need to assure them that we are fanatics for detail – because that’s what they will be paying for. Achieving this without boring them is, I think, the biggest creative challenge in a new business presentation.

Felix Dennis, millionaire, publisher, and poet:

‘Ideas, we’ve ‘ad ‘em

Since Eve mated Adam.

But take it from me

Execution’s the key’