Life's a pitch

Pitch - a process, during which an agency approaches a client with the intention of acquiring his business, usually marked by ‘environmentally friendly activities‘ like recycling research, strategy and creative. Also a time for secrecy as none other than the ‘core‘ committee are supposed to be in the know (Remember I didn‘t tell you that).

"Me says you start working on the peetch," Chai-La, the office‘s Chinese canteen boy said as he handed Ram Shankar his morning cup. Ram who was in the midst of making his job list for the day looked up in amazement. "How did you know?" Chai-La smiled, much like one of those utterly respectful looking Chinese monks from any of the kung-fu movies you chose to remember. "I know these theengs."

Ram grabbed his cup and went to his boss‘s room.

"Hey who should we be briefing on the pitch?" Ram asked his boss, Vikas Khanna. Vikas, who was in the midst of talking to some creative types (some pretty ones at that) looked up with the kind of condescending look usually reserved for na?ve fans arguing in favour of Anna Kournikova‘s tennis skills. "Chief!" Vikas started, and then realizing that he wanted to make a ‘point‘ continued in an even louder tone.

"When will you guys understand the importance of keeping a lid on things?" Vikas stood up, clearly miffed. The two creative girls (Tanya and Sonia if you really must know) sensing that some unpleasantness was in the air scurried off faster than your first salary paycheck. With the audience gone, Vikas relented and put his arm around Ram, building up to a moment of knowledge transference between two souls.

"A pitch is a very secretive thing. No one, but just no one is supposed to know of it. At times we don‘t even tell the creative what brand the work is being done for."

"But … I thought six other agencies were invited"

"Shhhh not so loud…"

"And people in office will see the work being done. They will know."

"That‘s where you have to be on your toes. You‘ve got to block their view using any means possible."

"I am depending on you to do that. That‘s one of your major tasks for the pitch," Vikas strolled off in pursuit of loftier things like solving the global warming problem (actually just to get the AC in his room fixed).

Ram‘s mind went back a few days. To trace the sequence of events that had brought this mess upon himself. And as it happens it all began at a media party. A media party to celebrate the launch of…??? Who remembers the reason for a media party anyways?

A slurred voice sounded near the bar (usually the best place for OTS at such venues). "Ahhh my agency is bad! Very bad! Bad is not the word for them…" Those mistaking this tirade for an audition of the classic Michael Jackson track (new remix version), could be forgiven. Mr Katcha West, marketing manager of ‘Uniquely New Developments Involving Elongated Socks‘ (in industry parlance - UNDIES), was a man you did not want to ‘undie‘estimate. Not just because of his Japanese mother and American father heritage that made him the butt of some very cruel World War 2 jokes, but mainly because of the advertising budget of nearly Rs 500 million (card rate of course) that he had at his disposal.

Ram was in the vicinity when that remark was made. Within minutes people from various agencies, exchanging cards and making appointments, swamped Mr West. The force of this new business wave (tsunami actually) was such that Ram suddenly found himself shaking hands with West and making an appointment for a presentation.

That was Friday night. Today was Wednesday and it was the day that the servicing team was supposed to brief the creative.

"A breef is not needed… seek and you shall find the answer already is there," was Chai-La‘s early morning tea riddle.

Time flew by. It was 2 pm and everyone gathered in the conference room. "What‘s the brief?" PP, the creative director asked, twirling his ‘you can hang all the servicing guys here‘ whiskers. "You want a brief for UNDIES?" Vikas chirped. "The brief," PP continued patiently tolerating the ‘servicing guy‘s pun. "Aha the brief. What‘s the brief Ram?"

Vikas quickly turned the spotlight on Ram. "But… but." Ram nearly was choking with rage. He had spent the past two days trying to get Vikas to come along for a meeting with Mr West, but Vikas was busier trying to maintain India‘s foreign relations (meaning chatting with French and American women and trying to deflower them on the Net), so the days had flown by and no meeting had happened. "I was trying to fix a meeting but…" Vikas jumped in. "But these bachcha‘s of today can‘t do anything you tell them …anyways kuch kar de yaar don‘t worry I will backfit a strategy and sell it to the client."

Vikas quickly strolled out of the room. PP‘s gaze met Ram‘s, he had a smile on his face, "Tension mat le," and continued the ‘twist whisk‘ routine that was a signal for all servicing underlings to leave the room..

Later when they sat to review what was needed to be done Vikas remarked, "Ram get some research organized, we need to fill in 40 slides." Ram protested, "But shouldn‘t the slide count be more connected to what our strategy is and how many slides are actually needed to put the point across?" Vikas gave him the same condescending look described earlier.

"We need 127 slides totally!"

"Why?" Ram innocently asked. "Because 127 totals 10, which means 1 and that‘s a winning number …its all scientific, in fact, we have never lost a pitch when the slide count is 127."

"Ahhh numbers there is great power in them" Chai-La popped in, laying down two teacups and then seeming to vanish in the wall.

"So what do we fill in these slides?"

"I don‘t care you can do what you want but just stick to the target. In fact dig up the researches done on all the brands and just use whatever is useful."

"How do I know what would be?" Ram enquired"

""Hold the research report facing the first rays of the sun at 9 am sharp, then make a pencil stand on the paper, perpendicular to it, where the shadow cast by the pencil ends you have the point to be selected, do this for every page."

Ram regretted having asked.

The next few days were traumatic. Ram had spent two days wondering whether he should take Vikas‘s point of not allowing anyone to see the work in progress seriously or not. He did feel a faint pang of guilt whenever some passer by managed to get a fleeting glance at the under clothed women being scanned (all right men if that suits you).

"Nothing remains a secret forever, least of all peetches," Chai-La‘s pearls of wisdom over the morning teacup.

Came the day where creative had to be reviewed. 24 hours before the pitch began. The teams gathered somberly in the conference room. There was a hushed silence broken only by Rams pencil falling down as he tried to catch the sunrays on the report.

"So what do we have?" Mr Raichand, the CEO of the agency, asked. "Nothing yet but we will tell you once we have something. As usual there is no brief and we are groping in the dark. Which might be great for sex but hardly helps me create good advertising." PP was on a roll here. Speaking of rolls Ram could have done with some breakfast. This entire ‘9 am sunrays thing‘ was getting to him.

"Why is there no brief?" boomed the CEO, Ram was shaken and stirred by the sudden mood change but not Vikas.

With the coolness of a circus clown trying to do the lion tamer‘s job (ok that was not the right reference but as I said everyone was shaken) Vikas said, "I think we need to break all conventions in the category to win this pitch. We should be causing a disruption in the market place. We should be doing what none of the other agencies do. We never win by following what others do. We win when we tread our own path."

How Ram wished he had read the same book.

"All that is fine so how are we being different?" Mr Raichand still wanted to know.

"No brief. We aren‘t giving the creative a brief. Nobody does that." Vikas concluded with the panache of an account executive making an entry into a media party sans invite (as we all know panache is very important here).

Ram looked at Mr Raichand. His head was furrowed in thought. "Good. Very good. I like that. No brief. That‘s brilliant. Good show Vikas." Ram was shaking his head when PP looked at him and gave him a wry smile. "Lets go for it guys I think we have something here. A winner strategy. Let the creative now deliver. Vikas message me the address of the clients and the time of the presentation. Go for it boys," the CEO departed and with him Vikas as though he was a slightly detached body accessory.

"PP was left causing severe stress to his moustache. "That @#$%^" I will get him for this" Ram was still dumbstruck by the speed of the whole KMK ‘Kholo Maro Khisko‘ Vikas maneuver. "I know what, we will just recycle all the stuff that we did for the lollipop presentation last week with a few changes ….akhir yahan lollipop alag hain… Ha, ha, ha." The room laughed along in a forced manner when Chai-La came in with the customary chais. As he was giving Ram his cup he whispered, "I told you the answer already lies weetheen," and left before Ram could formally appoint him his Shaolin master.

9 am. UNDIES head office.

The agency team, the equipment guys and any other people you might choose to make up the number 14 (again from the Vikas school of thought) show up.

"Yes," the receptionist croons, "And you are here for?" "Mr Katcha West," Vikas snickers.

"He isn‘t here anymore with us."

Jaws dropped down like the Dow Jones after 9/11. Ram‘s heart sank with the speed of a U-boat scooting after sinking one of her majesty‘s battleships. "Surely you must be mistaken," Vikas said, giving the receptionist his by now legendary condescending look.

"I am not sir. He was fired by the company last week."

"Hmmm," Vikas turned around and felt 14 pairs of smoldering eyes burning holes in his shirt and infinitely more tender parts (actually only 13 pairs, Ram‘s eyes were shut from all that ‘9am sunrays thing‘)

"Why could you not check before fixing this ‘meeting‘?" the CEO barked.

"Well I called him 30 something times, left messages, sent him e-mails, even sent him a Scotch bottle but the bugger never replied." Ram thought Vikas‘ improvisation skills merited him a place on Whose Line is it Anyway? The only people Vikas had communicated with over the past week were Sultry Suzie and Amorous Alice on the Net.

"Anyways nothing ventured, nothing gained," Vikas continued. "At least we have a campaign for all the other underwear manufacturers in the country."

"But wouldn‘t their requirements and their products be different?" Ram muttered under his breath.

"No chief. Katcha hi to hain. How different are they? We must learn to shrug off setbacks, and I think this is more of an opportunity than a setback. It‘s a great learning experience. Look at it this way; we are ready for any underwear business. Brief or no brief. I feel we might as well develop proactive campaigns for at least 10 other categories so that we are always ready."

Game. Set and Match.

"Eets all the same. Only their physical manifestations are different," Ram could almost imagine Chai- La telling him that back at the office.

The CEO patted Vikas on his back. "Very good. I feel like we have achieved something over here. We are readier. We are hungrier. We are better… we… let‘s just go and open a few bottles. Let‘s discuss corporate strategy over a few beers."

PP groaned. Ram felt no better.

Life was a pitch.

Vinay Kanchan - currently client services director with Everest Integrated Communications Limited. He started his career in Lintas (now Lowe). Kanchan is also a soccer freak and organises soccer games for like-minded members of the media fraternity residing in Mumbai‘s suburbs. He can be contacted at

(The views expressed here are those of the author and need not necessarily subscribe to the same)


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