Every so often one or two agencies would break out of the pack, get hot, and go on a new business winning streak. Sometimes that happened with the larger, more established agencies, but it was usually more prevalent with the new, up and coming companies. In the '60s and ‘70s agencies like Carl Ally, Norman Craig & Kummel, Wells Rich Green, Papert Koenig Lois, and Delahanty, Kurnit & Geller, were some of the ones to beat. For Don Draper and SCDP, Cutler Gleason and Chaough seems to be emerging as their prime competitor. The pitch for the Honda account would be the next meeting of their creative minds.
Much More Than A Presentation
The final presentations of a new business pitch were all-out, full blown battles in which campaign ideas, agency reputations, showmanship, and one-upmanship were on full display. It was, and still is, an exhilarating and intensely competitive game and many stellar careers were launched on successful performances in new business pitches.
The clients set the specifications as to what would be presented, the ground rules on formats and levels of finish, and sometimes would provide a small fee to cover out of pocket expenses. These fees were token amounts that would not come close to covering expenses but would usually mean that clients would be able to keep the ideas presented to them. (The ad business gives away an astounding amount of ideas and IPs on “spec” in the pursuit of new business — that’s a story for another time.)
In the Mad Men days most agencies played by the rules and production of finished commercials was rarely part of a final presentation. As time progressed, production of finished commercials became the norm and the level of finish and depth of work has grown substantially. Today, it is not unusual for agencies to spend $200K to $500K+ in out of pocket expenses pitching big new accounts. Don Draper would have been salivating to have that kind of money to play with. In the case of Honda, the ground rules were no finished commercials and the compensation was $3000.
It’s Not Just Business…It’s Personal
Despite Roger’s outrageous behavior with the Honda client, SCDP was still technically in the pitch, but everyone recognized they didn’t stand a chance. Don followed his creative instincts and urged his partners to break the rules, spend their own money, and produce a finished commercial that would win the day. "Fireworks." Unfortunately, the finances at the agency wouldn’t allow for that. That’s when Don’s personal competitive need to win kicked in, and he decided to play head games with his upstart creative competitor.