The Art of the Pitch: Style Frames Design Conference

A summary of learnings by Your Majesty

The Style Frames Design Conference started 3 years ago in NYC.

This year was our first time attending the Style Frames for their second edition, Art of the Pitch, and we were impressed by the quality and diversity of the work shown.

First, A few takeaways:

  • We learned about different approaches on how to pitch, if we are to pitch at all
  • Having a strong point of view is key
  • Client and agency relationship should be transparent
  • You get the best results when both client and agency collaborate
  • Pitch deadlines have been shortened over the last few years

What we found most interesting were the different opinions around pitching as well as the different insights from agencies, production studios and big corporations on the topic.


The Art of the Pitch

How to make the most out of a pitch process?

We’ll see in a second part that we would not recommend going for the usual triple bid process. However, sometimes you don’t really have a choice. Your teams might not be super busy, and the opportunity to work with a great brand comes up… If you decide to go for it, you better be ready to handle it in the best way possible.

From all their different views on the matter, here are some of the most useful advices we could gather, to make this first encounter a better experience.

Human Connections

First, let’s gather the appropriate team.

“Put creatives, designers and tech people together and you’d be amazed of what comes out of it.” — Mike Alderson, Co-founder & Creative Director at ManvsMachine.

Nothing’s better than a concept that comes from a shared desire to produce great things — in a team — together with the client. Reality is that when the team finds its own interest in designing and producing an idea, and pushing it as far as possible, is when you get the best results. It all comes down to passion and motivation.

Then it’s about how you engage with the client/Brand. The more you try to keep secrets from clients just to achieve that big reveal effect, the more likely you are going to miss the target.

“Be smart, be transparent, be Human.”— Tendril Studio

Ask Questions, a lot of questions

Don’t be afraid to clear out all the underlying shadows in each brief, and ask all the questions needed.

What is it going to feel like? Where will it take place? What’s the Hardware? Budget? Time? Teams? Target? Support?… We shouldn’t be afraid of clarifying things we find odd, or suggest different views early-on in the pitching process.

In VR, you even have to rework some briefs with the client. MPC mentioned that in their field, reworking the briefs together with the client is a common thing because they don’t know a lot about the process and possibilities.

Design by doing

Most of the time you don’t have time to follow the common ideation process. Throw shapes, colors, sketches, or even pull a quick video test of the idea you want to bring to life, and maybe use it as a proof of concept to show the client how it’s gonna go down.

“Don’t build a 40 pages deck, just do a test.”— Mike Alderson.

This approach is in line of how we work at Your Majesty in an agile fashion, starting with a prototype as often as possible. Even though Style Frames is an event focused on visual production it is very applicable to interactive as well.

Be Decisive

When working on a project, you get ideas, convictions, and a vision of what you think is best for the brand. At that point, you should be keen on the concepts you want to push forward.

“Stand your ground, be decisive”, as Mike Alderson repeated a number of times, means don’t compromise on the things you think are great about your idea. If you think of an asset that would be more relevant for the brand, then stick with it. Don’t let this potential future client take you where you think you will lose all the fun and wear out your team’s morale.

Keep it Simple

Some of the speakers advised to put forward your Idea first. Others spoke about the one image that will speak to the client. But in every case, the same comment kept coming back: Know the strength of your company, and what the client needs. Keep it Simple.

If the client doesn’t like the idea, he’s not going to like it more with 10+ visuals and 50+ deck slides explaining it.

“Do what you’re good at. Stick to it.” 
 — Mike Alderson, ManvsMachine

Future Clients

First, “Pick your Clients” said Shannon Lewis, and “Give something simple to the agency they can relate to, and keep”.

Gretel talked about how agencies should choose whether or not to go for a pitch, and also know that “Pulling out of a pitch is as important as going for one, when needed.”

Let’s wrap this up with this wise note:

“Be right sized, be bold to speak your mind, the brief should be meaningful, be in a good relationship (talk/share often), be in a place where you can refuse to pitch if you feel it’s not right…” — Patricia Claire

Is Pitching the right thing to do?

Pitching is a big part of the work we do in this industry. Some speakers had the opinion that it’s a waste of time, money and talent, and you should say no to pitching completely. The clients just have to trust your skills. The point of a portfolio anyone can access is to say: “We know how to tailor design to your needs, and we have done so for our clients”. This is why it makes no sense to be competing for free to win a project.

But on the other hand, agencies, studios or freelancers don’t always have the portfolio to prove they can do what the client is looking for. In that case doing a pitch is a great way to show what you are capable of. Once you have a solid portfolio, you have the tools that allow you to say no to pitching.

Also, others mentioned several times that you have to pitch for free so the rights remain with the agency.

The panel had a great discussion between agencies and studios about the number of competitors that are included in a pitch and that the triple bid process is an outdated way of thinking, originating from compliance and corporate misunderstanding. Even when a client already has a preferred agency to work with and they know who they’ll pick.

Moreover, it’s not as transparent as it should be. The importance of clients being up front with their budget is critical. It makes little sense for agencies to be guessing in the dark. As a Creative agency, we are highly confident in coming up with ideas and scopes that fit within budgets; so why, as a client, waste your time not getting the best proposal possible?

We believe that from now on we should consider different alternatives to Pitching.


Afterthoughts

The audience of those talks unfortunately consisted in a vast majority of Production Studios and Agencies, when it would have been great to be sharing those insights with the actual clients we pitch for.

At Your Majesty, we believe in kicking off every every project with a workshop. Helping clients understand their needs and shape ideas, together, is vital. It solves many misunderstandings up front, we gain insights into our people, our thinking, and we foster a better relationship with the client that sets the project up for success.

This Discovery phase helps to figure out cost, timing and scope together with the Client. This is a very transparent process making it easy for both parties to set clear goals. Sometimes, during the Discovery phase, clients realize that what they want maybe not actually be the same as what they need.

This simple workshop creates a closer relationship with the client, a clear understanding of goals, builds trust and involves them in the creative process.