Analysis & Opinion

What a pitch – reflections on the 4A’s Institute

May 18, 2010 MullenLowe

A group of 35 Boston ad agency “rising-stars” just wrapped-up a grueling 14-week course called the 4A’s Institute for Advanced Advertising Studies. Those familiar with the IAAS know it’s a fantastic talent development program for young ad-folk.

For those of us who’ve lived it, the Institute is more than educational… it’s transformative. We learned about a variety of topics from leaders across different agencies – our own chief media officer John Moore and Arnold’s chief digital officer Troy Kelley.

But, there’s a beast behind the weekly lectures… the pitch. A client is invited every year to brief the group of young, inexperienced, unseasoned admen and women for a 3-month-long pitch process. This year’s client was Converse. It was a tough assignment, but I’ll spare you the details.

Instead, I will leave you with some insights my fellow Mullenites and I were able to pull from getting thrown into a pitch setting with teammates from eight different agencies across the Boston area:

  • You’re not the smartest person in the room. You won’t always be right, and your agency’s process isn’t right – just different.
  • But you might have the big idea – so speak up! Insights don’t always come from the planner, or the creative, or the (scoff) account guy. Don’t ever discount yourself before you’ve been heard.
  • Be bold. Not so much in your work or your words, but in your strategy and ideas. You can’t always present campaign platforms like “F*>k the rules” or “balls out, gentlemen,” but be balls out and f*>k the rules when it comes to conventional marketing. Cliché, I know.
  • Always do what’s right. Don’t put your client somewhere where they shouldn’t be. Nor should you put the brand somewhere that’s inaccessible to your consumer. Converse isn’t best experienced on the iPad, or on Twitter (though they’re dabbling).

Perhaps the greatest insight, however, is that title means nothing. I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing a true industry phenomenon. Traditional roles are quickly disappearing. And when the account guy can write an ad, your media pro can come up with the campaign platform and the project manager develops a killer guerrilla strategy, you know that you’ve achieved something great.

Congratulations, everyone! It was an amazing, and rough, three months. Keep the momentum, keep pushing the rules and together we’ll revolutionize this ad-game.