Can the urge to win beat the sexual urge?

urge to win weekender hammer
By The Hammer

Yes, yes, I know it is a click bait headline. All headlines in advertising are click bait, so deal with it.

Creative people worth their salt in the advertising industry will tell you that the chance to create something new for a new business pitch is their reason for living.

The urge to win overshadows almost everything, including sleepless nights and losing touch with reality for a few days.

The lure to dive into a mind and emotional adventure of discovery, experimentation, arguments, cold pizza and improvisation can seduce even the creative novice into a journey of what is possible.

Actually, I dare say ad people are the most creative during new business pitches. They can actually let their guard down and think beyond the mundane. Fresh thinking is such an energising rush of unmasked air. Ah….the freedom to think is so liberating!

It no secret most clients want their agencies to be always be in new business mode when it comes to fresh ideas, but the truth is most are not set up to handle it.

But new busines pitches can be heaven on earth for the winners or hell on steroids for those who lose.

No better high or worse low in the world.

The agony of seeing the value of your work vanish is like the end of the world. If you’ve been there, you’ll know it. Ya, ya, ya, “there’s always tomorrow”, and all that crap. The freedom to mope is also a democratic right, ok?

Questions like “Did the clients tell you the truth in their new business brief?”, “Can’t wait to see the  winning campaign when it runs, hahahahahaha…” and the usual “I’m sure someone was sleeping around with someone!”.

“Can’t wait to see the  winning campaign when it runs” is wishful thinking actually, because most ideas that win the pitch are almost never used in the final execution. I could suggest some possibilities why….

When it comes to most government linked advertising and media assignments, it is less scientific: it all about who you know and who you can please in cash or kind. Doesn’t take someone like Syed Saddiq to figure this one out.

Government project pitches are either “up for pitch”, “decision delayed because we say so”, or “open for pitch again”.

Tourism Malaysia had a massive pitch going on for almost a year, and lo and behold, they are now “open for pitch” again. MDEC once invited 43 agencies to pitch for a few hundred ringgit work of business. I think it was called MDeC then (face slap).

But nothing beats the case of Malaysia Airlines just abandoning the entire pitch process because their “brief’ changed in line with the arrival of a new CEO, leaving all participating agencies in the lurch. The lucky ones got reimbursed a token sum to cover their electricity bill for a month.

Common reasons clients give to reject creative?

OK, this question brings me to the book, THE BEST ADS NEVER SEEN, a clever award show published by an equally brilliant sounding organisation, National Advertising Benevolent Society (NABS). NABS is the support organisation for the advertising and media industry.

Founded in 1913, it is a registered charity dedicated to improving the wellbeing of those in the advertising and media industry. Yes, it’s a real thing and is a miraculous movement most in the advertising industry and media industry have conveniently forgotten.

Get your fix by clicking here, and here.

Anyway, back to the THE BEST ADS NEVER SEEN book… it showcases some of the best work done by the industry that never saw the light of day and awarded by NABS. They are ads rejected by client, so the industry decided to give it a deserving shot of fame. After all “what do clients know about good work?”….or “everybody makes mistakes”…

Inaugural Jury President John Hegarty in 1993, well before he received his knighthood, said in his foreword, “I am delighted to see work from all over the world which for the first time, gives everyone, within and outside the industry, the opportunity to see excellent work which might otherwise never be seen.”

just did it win

Gold Winner

Reasons why the ads were rejected (as published in the book)…..

Too risky – political

Afraid of public reaction

Model in picture will not agree

Off strategy, because headline tweaked the tagline

Does not fit with current campaign

Just for good measure, we asked a few local leading lights in creativity their own experiences with ads never sold….

alvin teoh naga ddb win
Alvin Teoh – Chief Creative Officer, Naga DDB Tribal

What happens to new biz pitch ideas that are not sold?

A lot of them just end up in the idea graveyard. Once in a blue moon, some are dug up, re-tweaked and recycled for something else that’s relevant.

Why were they not bought by the prospective client? 

A variety of reasons – one is the obvious, we lost to a better idea from another agency, other reasons are the brief we received from client is not in line with client’s higher management, sometimes clients want something safer but we were too bold and the reverse also happens – the client wants something bold and we were too safe. Sometimes the brief is a bogus brief and the pitch is just a show. Sometimes we trip and fall and completely miss the opportunity to see something great and put on a shit show. Sometimes it comes down to fees and sometimes client and agency don’t see eye to eye on the creative solutions at hand.

tc torpedo ideas marketing magazine asia win
TC – Founder, Torpedo Ideas

What happens to new biz pitch ideas that are not sold?

Like unused toys, they sit in a box hoping for some new kid to come along and find them useful someday. Most are never touched by human sight after the pitch.

Why were they not bought by the prospective client? 

The truth is hardly ever reflected in their rejection replies. So I’m not sure really.

teh le vin spin marketing magazine
Teh Le Vin – Executive Creative Director, Spin Communications

What happens to new biz pitch ideas that are not sold?

Most RIP after the pitch, but some lucky ones get to reincarnate and live again to help us win new biz. 

Why were they not bought by the prospective client? 

We normally present creative business solutions and would do more than just ad campaigns. They drive meaningful outcomes. Clients would find it too ‘difficult’ to execute on their part. Too much legacy (system change, data migration, departments acting in silos, et al).

henry yap m&c saatchi malaysia win
Henry Yap – Executive Creative Director, M&C Saatchi Malaysia

What happens to new biz pitch ideas that are not sold?

We will still keep those good ideas in the bag because you may never know if someday those good ideas may see the light of day again by the same client at another time or project. If the previous client didn’t buy that idea, who knows, it may suit another prospective client with some modifications to suit the nature of the brief. Bonus if it wins an award too for the new client, who believes in it.

Why were they not bought by the prospective client? 

Several factors: inappropriate timing, not willing to take risks, too expensive or too little time to produce or just simply not meeting their expectations.

chan woei hern vmly&r marketing magazine asia
Chan Woei Hern – Executive Creative Director (Malaysia & SEA), VMLY&R COMMERCE

What happens to new biz pitch ideas that are not sold?

The techniques, the experience, the learnings. We take it in to make ourselves a little better for the next one. The ideas: if they’re really kickass we try and find them a new home. The rest, we send back to wherever ideas come from and see how else they can come back to life the next time there’s a chance. The team, we celebrate the efforts, have a good laugh over it and come back stronger.

Why were they not bought by the prospective client? 

The best reason an idea is not to be bought, is because there was a better idea by the competition. We’re creatives. We live by celebrating ideas. And by getting jealous, and defeated and learning to be better through it. 

Sometimes it’s because of chemistry, and that’s a great feeling too. That a client feels like taking a chance at a relationship, with all the road bumps that come along.

The worst reason? When the tie breaker is down to hours and numbers. Now every agency has lived and died by the procurement sword before. As a creative. I can tell you it brings both winners and losers no pleasure. It’s just another war to be won cause we’re soldiers doing our job kinda thing.

adam miranda fishermen integrated win
Adam Miranda – Co-Founder & Executive Creative Director, Fishermen Integrated

What happens to new biz pitch ideas that are not sold?

Pitch ideas that don’t get sold (and not win us the business) usually end up as stories that are told over drinks about fantastic ideas we tried to sell but the client didn’t buy them. That’s probably as good as it gets. Most of the ideas we pitch are unique to that client and the brief. So chances of repurposing the work for another client are slim.

If we’re lucky, those unsold pitch ideas can serve as inspiration for new ideas down the line. Most of the time, they’re hard lessons on the brutal nature of pitching.

Why were they not bought by the prospective client? 

We are allergic to boring ideas so Fishermen does push the boundaries in concept, storytelling and entertainment. And understandably, for some prospective clients, that might be a step too far. Some clients do explain where we fell short and what the winning agency had. And we appreciate this.

Sometimes it’s nothing to do with us but a change in brief or direction after the pitching process.

More than 100 new business creative pitches are easily conducted every year and more than 300 campaigns just disappear into the night.

This piece was the Cover Story for MARKETING WEEKENDER Issue 318


appies asia pacific

APPIES Asia Pacific 2022 is happening in Malaysia!

Campaign entries must have run between Jan 2020 to May 2022
(open to campaigns ran from any Asia Pacific market during this period)

Visit appies.asia for details, registration and submissions NOW!



MARKETING Magazine is not responsible for the content of external sites.



Subscribe to our Telegram channel for the latest updates in the marketing and advertising scene