Ramsey Naja is chief creative officer at JWT MENA
“It is probably fair to say that a good number of ad people are, as I write this, working on a pitch. A pitch. How sad it is to refer to this grand old veteran of the advertising lingo so vaguely. In the past, there was no such thing as “a pitch”. Pitches were not commoditised. They were The Big Thing: the brief you fought for tooth and nail, the one you would willingly ditch family, friends and a hot date for. It was “The Pitch”; it was Waterloo, Trafalgar and Iwo Jima rolled into one – the battle reserved for the agency’s elite corps, the one that sorted the men from the boys. You went into it with the entire staff giving you a virtual salute, media gladiator that you were, ready to lose your reputation on the conference room floor, or return blooded but victorious in a blaze of glory and a flurry of dollar bills.
At least that’s what it felt like. Today, the pitch team seems to have the sex appeal of a dictator’s militia charging pro-democracy protestors. This may be due to that evil combination of a greed-fuelling boom, followed by a recession that made decent people calculate their mothers’ worth. In the first instance, we fought over faraway lands. Then, within a couple of years, we were fighting to keep our own homes. But even amid all of this disconcerting turmoil that embroiled us in fits of madness, there should have been something noble about going after new business or defending your own turf. What guillotined that nobility was, sadly, our industry itself.
You see, it is one thing to swear allegiance to the flag and meet your enemy in the killing fields, with the thought in the back of your mind that maybe one day you may well play football come the Christmas ceasefire, but quite another when you act like a pillaging gang of mercenaries intent on grabbing any piece of property you can lay your hands on. And that’s how we sometimes looked, in the mad dash for revenue and the madder defence of it: desperate armies with little honour. No wonder “ the pitch” was abused and became a dirty word. We allowed this to happen.”