The Director and the Pitch

MAD MEN

I’ve written in this space before about our independent ad agency network, ICOM + IN, which offers education from agency principal to agency principal.

The last meeting I attended was in Santa Monica in October 2012. One of my best pals had come in to LA a day early to pitch a big smoking cessation product. Jay is an entrepreneur extraordinaire. He owns an agency that is modest in size, but big in ideas. The twist on this pitch was that the primary investors in the product are James Cameron and his brother John. That would be James Cameron the movie director of Titanic and Avatar fame.

My fellow ICOMers and my first question to Jay was, “Dude, you had to present television concepts to James Cameron? What was that like?”

Jay laughed and said something about it being nerve wracking.

“So, how did you do it?”

“Well, there were a room full of investors, in addition to James and John Cameron. I told them to all close their eyes and not to open them until I’d finished going through the concept.”

“How’d that go over?” we wanted to know.

Jay answered, “It wasn’t a problem; they all shut their eyes tight, including James. But just as I was getting started, I noticed John Cameron squinting through one eye across the table. He spoke up and said loudly, ‘Frank, Jay said to keep your eyes shut. Now close your goddamned eyes and keep ‘em closed!’”

We all laughed, imagining the scene. The Great Director obeying our buddy Jay and closing his eyes while Jay went through his pitch.

“So, how did it go?” we asked. (I hardly remember the idea—something to do with an Aretha Franklin song).

“After I got done and told them to open their eyes, there was a dramatic pause and everyone looked at James. He suddenly burst out in applause and told me it was the best damned spot he could imagine and that the Aretha song was no problem because he knew Aretha personally and when could we get started…”

So, when you have a tough audience to persuade, just tell them to close their eyes.


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