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Agencies New Business Reinventing the Pitch

This indie agency shot a dating video to escape hamster wheel of chemistry sessions


By Sam Bradley | Senior Reporter

August 18, 2023 | 7 min read

As part of our series looking at how agencies are reinventing their approach to new business, the team at Something Different tell us how they’re doing something different to stand out from the crowd.

First date

Something Different filmed a ‘speed dating’ video to appeal to clients / Unsplash

Chemistry sessions can make or break an agency’s chances of winning a new account. But even with some competitors filtered out of the review process prior to this point, it can be difficult to stand out.

Some agencies will be able to draw upon a century of epoch-defining advertising or an outsized reputation. Most shops don’t have those assets on the shelf, however. One New York agency has been taking a different approach to the chemistry stage of a pitch – rather than relying solely on its ability to perform during its time on stage, Something Different shot a short film in the style of a dating agency video.

The idea, dreamt up between co-founders Patti McConnell and Tommy Henvey and creative director Richard Ryan (all ex-Ogilvy staffers), was to give prospective clients a better perspective on the personalities they’d hopefully be working with and meet them as humans, as well as prospective business partners – something that can be hard to do in the ritual of a chemistry session.

“There needs to be other ways to do it – you need some sense of something other than your Google Drive,” says McConnell. By adding an element of lightness to proceedings, the team hoped to make pitching less of a trudge, she adds, recalling the thought: “If we do one more Zoom with a consultant we’re going to shoot ourselves.”

Henvey, likening pitching peacocking to a user presenting only the most edited, flattering images on an app profile, says: “It was contrived. I didn’t feel like they knew us. They don’t know what makes Patti Patti or Richard Richard or me me. To me, it was like dating but dating on Tinder.”

Furthermore, since the pandemic the agency has found facetime with prospective clients limited, says Henvey. “Before Covid, you’d go sit in a room and meet a bunch of people three or four times, you’d go out for drinks or lunch and you’d bullshit a little bit. Now it’s, ‘here, fill this out, sent it to the platform’ and that’s all you’re getting. It’s pointless. If you’re going to spend that much money without really getting into the weeds or knowing whether you like these people… this is why agency relationships don’t last.”

The ‘dating video,’ he says, was one way out of that cycle. “We said, ’Let’s not just do a sizzle reel. We’ve shot a lot of shit that says nothing about us. But is there a way to get something else out there that felt like us?’”

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The movie shows Something Different staff cracking jokes, telling stories and revealing snippets about their hobbies. It’s supposed to reference dating agency introductions, says Henvey, and features the agency’s staffers answering a mix of serious and silly queries.

“The best part about us is the people. We have a bunch of really smart people that are fun to be around,” he adds. The film would provide a means of bringing those personalities into a pitching room. “Who are these people? What makes them interesting? What makes them different from everybody else?”

It also puts clear water between Something Different and rival agencies, adds creative director Ryan. “I can’t imagine the old Ogilvy CEO or whoever doing something like this. They’d have been scared of looking silly. But if you don’t want to look silly, why are you in this business?”

Ultimately, the video is just another tool in the agency’s quest to seed actual partnerships with clients.

“I don’t think that Nike’s going to turn around having seen this two-minute video and go, ‘holy shit, we have to work with them,’” Henvey concedes. “For us, this is a way to signal that we look at things a bit differently. It’s not ‘how I got my MBA’ or a 12-point list of accomplishments. We’re people, human beings that do good stuff.

“That’s what it comes down to at the end of the day. The reason the work was good, the reason clients stay for a long time, that you have an interesting partnership, is because you have a real relationship with them.”

Agencies New Business Reinventing the Pitch

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