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5 Tips for Pitching Ideas From Advertising Experts Goodby & Silverstein

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Mar 6, 2020 • 3 min read

Sometimes the only way to sell an idea is by selling a client on the human truth that the idea is based on. This is the essence of pitching—a skill that’s absolutely essential in the world of advertising.



Jeff Goodby & Rich Silverstein Teach Advertising and CreativityJeff Goodby & Rich Silverstein Teach Advertising and Creativity

Advertising icons Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein teach you how to break rules, change minds, and create the best work of your life.

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Who Are Goodby & Silverstein?

Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein started their San Francisco-based advertising agency, Goodby Silverstein & Partners with Andy Berlin in 1983. Their work includes advertising campaigns like “got milk?,” the Budweiser lizards, Hewlett-Packard’s “Invent,” the E*Trade chimpanzee, Polaroid’s “See what develops,” Doritos’ Super Bowl ads, and SEGA’s “SEGA!”

Goodby & Silverstein’s hard work paid off; in addition to being named “Agency of the Year” multiple times by many publications, GS&P was repeatedly recognized for its ingenuity and innovation and was the first to be named “Interactive Agency of the Year” by both the Cannes Festival and Advertising Age. Goodby & Silverstein were named Adweek’s “Executives of the Decade,” and their effect on advertising can be particularly felt in the leaders and team members they mentored over the years, many of whom successfully started their own agencies.

Goodby & Silverstein’s 5 Tips for Pitching Ideas

Goodby & Silverstein know how to appeal to their clients in both old and new business, and they’ve mastered the pitching process from the creative brief to the pitch deck and beyond.
If you want to improve your ad agency pitch skills, check out some of the following tips:

  1. Accept that the best idea isn’t always the right idea. Your agency’s content marketing strategy may be effective, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for the client. It’s important to understand the short- and long-term strategy for how to sell a client on the kinds of bold ideas that make brands famous. It’s also important to understand why the best idea isn’t always the right idea—know your target audience (the client), as well as their target market, in order to cater specifically to their needs.
  2. Build a crazy idea around a nugget of truth. If you feel like you have a good idea but it’s a little crazy or convoluted, chances are the client is going to feel that way too. To circumvent this, you would have to be able to prove that this sales pitch is a winning pitch—either by showing market research or by making your idea so persuasive the client can’t deny its effectiveness. For the “got milk?” pitch process, Goodby & Silverstein filmed the real reactions of people searching for milk. They turned what was an unconventional or “crazy” idea into an undiscovered nugget of truth. Suddenly the crazy idea was just an idea that no one had thought of yet. This crazy idea eventually became licensed for use by milk processors and dairy farmers throughout the United States.
  3. Make your idea funny. Most things in life are not funny—war, disease, paying your bills. When you think of it like that, 30 seconds of funny can go a long way toward putting potential clients in a buyer-friendly mood. When a brand can make fun of itself, it almost makes consumers feel like that brand is more “authentic” and “engaged” with its audience. That’s not to say that serious ads can’t be good—take American Legacy’s “Truth” ads, which fight Big Tobacco. However, funny or satirical spots are almost always the best way to land yourself in pop culture’s advertising hall of fame.
  4. You’re a brand too. Your own personal brand is what can help sell your idea and improve client relationships. When you create a relatable brand, you connect with your prospective clients on an intimate level that feels inviting and kindred. You present yourself as someone worth investing in to those specific people who share that brand identity. If you can use your own brand as a way to communicate, you’ll be able to speak to a company’s brand strategy in a more authentic way.
  5. Read the room during the pitching process. Sometimes pitches are won or lost based on nothing other than likability. Before, during, and after your pitch presentation, make sure you are sensitive to the client’s habits and behaviors. You want to be on the same page as the decision-makers in the room, so it’s important that self-awareness is part of your strategy. The more you understand the subtle culture of the company you’re pitching and the city it calls home, the better chance you’ll have as a contender for their business. If you form a sincere relationship with the company, the odds are higher you’ll ultimately win the job.
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