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Saturday, January 4, 2014

How to win an "Ad Pitch"

AVC student NATASHA REGO (Class of 2014), who was a co-editor of the college newspaper, looks back on an eventful semester at Commits that culminated in her group winning the Ad Pitch competition

Not too long after joining Commits one realises that there are two coveted prizes to be won in the second year. Fittingly, these two friendly competitions, which are an interesting way to evaluate our skill, are at the beginning and at the end of the third semester. How you fare in them, I believe, puts into perspective your growth as an audiovisual communication student at Commits.

The first is the contest that is part of Victor Mukherjee’s annual film-making workshop for the AVC students, which my team* (I was the producer, or group leader) lost. The second, for both the AVCs and the MMCs, is the Ad Pitch. This competition, my group** and I proudly won.

ALL DRESSED UP FOR THE "COMPANY CREDENTIALS" FILM SHOOT FOR THE AD PITCH: NATASHA REGO, NEETHU GEORGE, PRAJNA G.R., SAUMYA IYER, AKHILA DAMODARAN, AND RISA MONICA KHARMUTEE. WATCH THE "COMPANY CREDENTIALS" FILM HERE.

The day we picked the chit that revealed our topic for the Ad Pitch, we were very disappointed. To us, it was a very “boring” topic: “You get the government you deserve. Vote”. It was immediately apparent that we had long days of research ahead of us.

In our opinion, the others had more interesting topics to work with. We were quite envious of the groups that got “Have sex. Responsibly”, and “Donate your organs. Why waste them!” We cribbed, but not for long.

Three weeks before D-Day, we began... lethargically. We’d meet every day for several days and tire our brains getting familiar with the Indian electoral system, understanding voting trends, and then formulating ideas to motivate the masses to get off their backsides and participate in this enormous democracy that we belong to. Group member and “Head of Research” Akhila Damodaran would spend time helping us understand relevant laws, challenges in the system, and similar campaigns run in the past. All of this was not an easy task.

The trick lay in figuring out our target audience and carefully defining them. For that, we picked people whom we could easily relate to. We picked ourselves: the youth… urban residents between 18 and 35 years of age. However, Sai Sir explained to us that you don’t talk to an 18-year-old who hasn’t yet begun to understand the magnitude of the right he’s just been handed the same way you would talk to a 35-year-old who has been working and who has had trysts with the system for several years. So with the help of group member and “Head of Client Servicing” Neethu George, we narrowed down our target audience to 18- to 25-year-old registered urban dwellers who are just too lazy to go out and vote (we arrived at this finding through our survey).

One week into preparing for the Ad Pitch, we AVC students had to complete another assignment: submit our “corporate films” for evaluation. Group Saraswathi travelled to Kodagu (Coorg) and spent two days there shooting at the offices of group member Prajna G.R.’s family newspaper, Shakthi, Kodagu’s first Kannada daily. After returning to Bangalore, we scripted, edited, and submitted the film, all in a span of four days. Soon after, we got back to the Ad Pitch, for such is life at Commits: exciting and always on the run.

TAKING A BREAK TO CHECK OUT THE SIGHTS IN KODAGU.
STILL IN KODAGU, HOPPING ON TO A PARKED TRUCK AFTER A LONG DAY'S WORK.

WATCH THE CORPORATE FILM ON SHAKTHI HERE:

All jazzed up from that trip to Kodagu, we decided to train our eyes away from our computer screens for extensive brainstorming sessions. Ideas would float above our heads like brilliantly coloured bubbles… but that was all they were, bubbles which burst almost as soon as they formed.

Eventually, we went from coming up with terribly complex ideas which Sai Sir would roll his eyes at, to ideas that seemed almost plausible. We were also so bad at making Sai Sir understand what we were trying to say, that we acted in and shot our ad films to show him a sample. If Sai Sir hadn't rejected idea after idea, with arguments that only an experienced marketer could come up with, we may never have reached our final concept.

The eventual plan for our ad campaign was not exactly the result of all the knowledge that we had accumulated thus far. It was just one of those bubbles that were floating above group member and “CEO” Saumya Iyer’s head. With little confidence she revealed the idea. At first listen, it was charming. It took me a second to realise the brilliance in its simplicity. And then, our hearts leapt with joy. This bubble did not burst! We had exactly a week by the time we ran it by Sai Sir and were ready to shoot.

Meanwhile, as “Creative Director”, I made the logos for our advertising company “IOTA” and for our ad campaign the “Young Voters Movement”, as well as the posters. Group member and fellow “Creative Director” Risa Monica Kharmutee shot our ad film and wrote our radio ad. And “Media Planner” Prajna gave us solid strategy, complete with teaser, message/tagline, reminder, and acknowledgement to get people out there to vote. We even shot ourselves a company-credentialsvideo.

We discussed almost everything and the results were sharp. And then we practised our pitch at least 20 times. But we were still worried. The MMC groups had a leg up on us with their ability to research and strategise. Plus there was no telling what would come out of the creativity of the other AVC groups.

Finally, D-Day arrived: Saturday, December 7, 2013. With almost a hundred pairs of eyes trained on us, including those of the esteemed judges, we made our pitches.

THE JUDGES PAY RAPT ATTENTION TO THE AD PITCHES AND TO THE "COLLATERAL".
"IOTA" WAITING TO HEAR WHAT THE JUDGES HAD TO SAY... IT WAS ALL GOOD.

The first team to be called was “Pointed Curves” with the topic: “Have sex. Responsibly.” Their pitch had many elements that ours didn’t. We watched, and shivered with fear, as they presented their plans for consumer contact and merchandise. We, on the other hand, hadn’t gone past the basics. Had we not done enough work? At the end of the presentation, though, the judges identified the loopholes in the pitch and picked on them. The group was grilled. The judges were brutal. We watched helplessly.

We happened to be the next group to be called. We strode into the spotlight and made our pitch. When Prajna finished with the final slide, we all gathered together facing the judges, ready to have our pitch shredded to bits. Except, they said we had made quite a “wholesome” presentation and they had no questions. We were stunned. 

We walked quietly out of the auditorium and into the computer lab next door, where we had spent many a day working out this pitch, and screamed, and jumped, and hugged each other.

Even though we knew we had nailed it, we watched on nervously as the remaining six groups made their presentations to the judges. The pitches were elaborate and well thought out. But each groups had to face some tough questions. The judges pointed out the good and bad elements in each pitch.

When the results were announced, frankly, it was no surprise that we had won. I’m not being full of myself by saying this. I’m just proud of the five talented girls I got to work with on this project. It’s because we worked on so many projects together through this semester, each one of us contributing our two cents, making up for one another when emergencies called for it, and becoming best friends at the end of it all, that we were as good as we could be when we made our Ad Pitch.

Sticking to the basics made us the first AVC group in Commits’ history to win the Ad Pitch. And we won by a LARGE margin. So remember, Junior AVCs, you now hold bragging rights for a year, until next year when it’s time for you to make your own pitch. AVCs or MMCs, whether you think you stand a chance or not, give it better than your best.

*Team Turquoise was one of the three teams formed exclusively for Victor's workshop

**Group Saraswathi was one of eight teams that worked together on all the group projects in the third semester
  • Read Bilal Hasan's report on the Ad Pitch (and the PR Pitch) here: "PITCH PERFECT".