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The Influencers
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5 Pitch Lessons You Can Learn from the Dating Game

180 Amsterdam, 8 months, 2 weeks ago

INFLUENCER: 180 Amsterdam's Client Services Director & self professed 'Tinderella' Melanie Portelli shares some 'dating' tips

5 Pitch Lessons You Can Learn from the Dating Game

I've spent a good chunk of my working life in new business. And more recently a dose of my social life playing the internet dating game. I'm a self proclaimed 'advertising' lifer, the type who makes sure they are in time to see the shiny new ads at the cinema and who subsequently annoys their friends by commenting. So any readers who know me won’t be surprised that I’ve managed to connect these two worlds.

What recently occurred to me as I’ve plodded through dates of varying success is that the fickle reality of internet dating actually serves as a reminder of best practice in new business. Just as one is not going to find love based on the simple swipe alone, so too do agencies need to look deeper than the shiny new logo (and revenue) on offer. 

A strong confident agency is one who can be honest in their assessment of the potential relationship. That’s one of the things I’ve admired having recently joined the 180 team. It is because of this approach that we have garnered long standing relationships with say DHL, for six years and Asics for five years at a time when the average client changes agencies every 18 months.

So yeah, I'll say it: the swiping game has consequently reminded me on the critical behaviors that ensure the best longer-term client relationships. And no, I’m not going to talk about chemistry… that’s too easy.


1. Shared ambition

I guess it is pretty obvious what this means in dating. Are we both after the same thing here? Are you looking for more than a bit of fun?

This is critical in pitching. Asking the tougher questions up front in order to understand what success looks like for the client is key. Are they driven by a promotion? Do they strive for famous work? Do awards matter? At 180 we ensure we tease this out way early in the process to test if we are aligned.


2. Not ‘Faking it’ 

I'm big on honesty in the dating game. If you don't want to hang anymore, let's just say so and cut the crap. 

I too believe that honesty is key in starting off the right sort of agency client relationship. There is little point in faking it as issues are drawn out unnecessarily. If we don't agree with a clients pitch brief at 180 we believe in telling them as much. Likewise it is beneficial when clients are honest and open in their assessment of our thinking. 


3.  Complementary ways of working

I have a rule that I don’t date guys in hospitality. Harsh I know but dating someone who works nights won’t work with my lifestyle.

Fleshing out how clients like to work is challenging in a pitch. However it is possible to inject agency DNA into the process. At 180 we believe we produce our best work when we are on the same team. So our chemistry session is purposely structured to tease this out.  


4. Shared enthusiasm 

For any single readers I encourage you to read ‘Fuck Yes or No’. The premise is basically that both parties should be as ‘up for it’ as each other. Power play is poisonous. 

It is actually this article that inspired me to write this piece. One of the toughest calls to make in new business is declining an opportunity. However this is the smartest move any self-respecting agency can make. If the clients are not enthused by your way of thinking then shake hands and call it a day. While it stings a little to see that potential revenue wiped, the benefits gained culturally are totally worth it.  There is no better feeling than both client and agency having that ‘fuck yes’ feeling and subsequently a more ‘fuck yes’ type of long term relationship. 


5. Not too stuck in your ways!

At the risk of sounding older than I am, I now understand what older singletons mean when they talk about being too stuck in their ways to meet anyone. The thought of a guy moving into my very ‘Mel’ apartment is unfathomable. However love is about give and…take (…I’ll caveat my costume collection is never being ‘taken’ by anyone!) 

So too is the case when building a new client relationship. While an agency may have a core process, an early assessment on the right process for them is critical. I run the Benetton account and one of the first things I needed to sort when we won it was to create a bespoke process that adhered to their Italian “sensibilities” and high fashion expectations. 


So yeah it’s not rocket science. Yet these are the behaviors of an agency who wins and better yet ends up in many happy fruitful marriages.

I want 2016 to be the year of less shallow logo tunnel vision and more ‘fuck yes’ client relationships for all. And who knows, maybe a personal (and mutual) ‘fuck yes’ in my love life too!




Melanie Portelli is Client Services Director at 180 Amsterdam