Tag Archives: 100 best pitch stories

The first Britain in space!


This story qualfies for the bizarre. It took place nearly twenty  years ago when the advent of ‘glaznost’ signalled a thaw in relations with the Soviet Union.  It started with a call from the President of the Moscow Narodny bank, based in London, one of the few commercial organisations then operating in the West.

Intrigued, I went along to a briefing  where I met General Danyev, a grizzled veteran of the Soviet military.  He  was involved in running the Soviet Space agency, at that time probably leading the US  in activity level.  During the briefing, carried out through an interpreter, the general would rub forefinger and thumb together, the universal sign for ‘money’. He was not, as I  first thought, seeking personal reward.  He was signalling a   commercial opportunity for western sponsors!

The first brief was to identify a sponsor, such as Coke, who could emblazon their brand all over the exterior of a space mission.  When scientists pointed out that thousands of degrees heat at blast-off would obliterate any branding, the general came up  with another idea.  It was to run an ad campaign to recruit  potential astronauts from the British public.

Before Saatchi’s creative work could be pitched to him there was a  9 month delay. Our London based client, the bank president, was ordered back to Moscow in one of the tit-for-tat spy scandals common at the time.

On his return, which surprised us, he was presented a campaign plan of full pages to appear once in all main newspapers,  a name, Mission  Juno,  and a totally brilliant, long bodycopy, ad written by Simon Dicketts. The headline   “ASTRONAUT WANTED. NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY”.

17,000 coupon responses came in. Some 3000 were then invited to complete a detailed questionnaire. 500 were screened in interviews before a final three were selected for training at the Space Agency. One of these, Helen Sharman, became the first British cosmonaut.

“The c*** in the glasses…”


This is a  ‘trough’ story of epic proportion. It still resonates in the corridors of 80 Charlotte St, the London office of Saatchi & Saatchi, some fifteen or so years later. This version is authenticated  by its hero David Kershaw, now heading up M & C Saatchi, but at the time of our story managing Saatchi & Saatchi.

The setting a large conference room . The players.  On one side the senior marketeers from BT, then as now, one of the UK’s largest advertisers.  On the other, the agency’s star team pitching their creative campaign.

Halfway through the presentation it became clear that things were not going as well as hoped. This prompted Kershaw, a man of both eloquence and erudition, to scribble a note to one of his colleagues. It read “the c*** in the glasses looks like trouble”

Before the end of the meeting the agency was asked to leave the room before returning for a summing up. The note was not mentioned and only subsequently, via the pages of Marketing Week, did it become clear the words had indeed  found their mark.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the agency did not win the business.

However this story has a happy ending. Some months later BT invited  the agency to pitch for a further part of their business. Kershaw, deciding discretion the better part of valour, stood himself down from the presentation.  This meant he missed the BT team all of whom turned up wearing glasses.

And Saatchis won the pitch!


A number of people have said it would be a good idea to start gathering and posting the truly memorable pitch stories. Brilliant insights, bizarre mistakes, bravura performances, brazen bullshit, bright ideas, bloody foolishness and any other that come to mind.

Mine, surprise, surprise, will be drawn from experience at Saatchi but every sector of business, politics, law,  media, sport, entertainment, you name it, has great stories to be told.

What are your favourites? Let’s have them please, in about  one to two hundred words.  To send them you can register and comment, or email me whichever is easiest. They will be posted under the Pitches and Troughs category.

A distinguished panel, yet to be announced, will rank contributions by story interest and intrigue, rather than pitch success, giving us The 100 Best Pitch Stories-EVER!

To give you a taster of stories over next few days, Camelot playing to the Government’s fear of failure, London 2012 making the emotional connection and, as we saw last week, Labour blowing it in Crewe with the “toff” stunt.

Let the storytelling begin……………………