Bons mots

Slips of my tongue

Son of a pitch!

Before I went back to school, I was an account executive at a newswire. My job was to advise clients on their communications strategies, which is more accurate than simply saying, “I sold stuff.” I was never the aggressive, Glengarry Glen Ross-type of salesperson; my skills lay in developing relationships with my clients, understanding their needs and providing them with the right product or service. I made sure each proposal was personalized and meant something to my client.  

Now that I’m on the other side of the table, I like to be treated the same way. So imagine my chagrin when I received this today:


This is a life-size cardboard cutout of a man named Dave, a VP from a marketing communications agency I won’t name.

I’m not a marketing expert by any means, but it doesn’t take one to know when a pitch hits the right spot. It must be creative, targeted and engaging. Because your goal is to attract attention and create enough interest to make your audience take action that will add to your ROI –visit your website, ask for a meeting, buy your product.

While Cardboard Dave certainly attracted my (and my coworkers’) attention and created interest, the action I took was probably not what he had in mind. Case in point: Cardboard Dave underwent a Sharpie makeover.

Here is why I think Dave’s pitch failed:

  • There was no one waiting at the reception desk to greet me and hand the package to me personally – it was a ditch and run.
  • The package was very large and bulky. I had to carry it up two flights of stairs to my desk and almost knocked someone over. Furthermore, my workspace is not very spacious so I don’t know where I’ll keep Cardboard Dave.
  • The only part of the package with my name on it was the mailing label on the wrapper. There was no letter addressed to me; all I got was a snazzy, embossed booklet placed in a slot where Cardboard Dave’s hands are. There is nothing personal about it.
  • Cardboard Dave promises “favourable impressions” and “better recall” of my organization’s message. It would have been more engaging if their spiel demonstrated some understanding of the ODA’s key messages. And if they did some research, they would have known that while I do wield some influence, I am not the decision-maker of my team.
  • There is a page in the booklet listing the associations Dave’s company has “been associated with.” I’m a sucker for semantics – has this organization actually worked for these associations? I once donated money to the Canadian Cancer Society, so technically, I can say I was “associated” with them.
  • The last page bears Dave’s signature and information, and has an unusual, if slightly creepy, closing:

I’d like to give you a call
In a couple of days
To see what you think.

Or for pickup. : )   (I’m still trying to figure out what THAT means.)

Overall, these are my immediate impressions:

  • The company must be doing well in this economy to spend $200 for each cardboard cutout and booklet, which is what I estimated the package to cost. Are they going to recoup their printing costs through their fees? Because associations are not-for-profit; we answer to our members and have to account for every single cent we spend.
  • How many trees were felled to make Cardboard Dave?
  • Dave’s ego is so big (“How big is it?”), it can’t fit on a standard business card.
  • It would have been more cost-effective, and a nicer touch, if 3D Dave had personally come to my office and spoke to me directly, instead of sending his cardboard representative. Chances are he would have gotten a meeting. Sometimes, tried and true tactics trump snazzy packaging.

I’ll give Dave points for creativity and chutzpah. But like his one-dimensional counterpart, this pitch has left me stiff.

What do you think?


March 12, 2009 - Posted by | FAIL | , ,


  1. I agree with a lot you say here, Bonnie.

    It was pretty wasteful, and based on the fact that your name was only on a sticker on the outside and that you weren’t the decision maker, not very well targeted.

    It was certainly a creative approach, and one that I haven’t seen or thought of before.

    I’d hesitate to call it a fail – it certainly got your attention. And you’re probably just one of the people that it was sent to. I’d be interested in hearing from the company themselves to see what kind of response they got.

    Comment by Parker | March 13, 2009 | Reply

  2. Thanks, Parker.

    It depends what their objective was. If it was to get my attention, yes they certainly did that. But I doubt that was their only objective. I would like to know their expense/revenue ratio.

    Comment by Bons Mots | March 13, 2009 | Reply

  3. HAHAHAHAHA…I can’t wait to see his face when he comes to “pick up”, only to find that you’ve all drawn doodles on his $200 cutout.

    If he’s upset, tell him his tactics wore thin, and that was the most one-dimensional pitch you’ve ever seen.

    Incidentally, we use thousands of those cardboard cutouts in film productions when they need to fill a stadium but can’t afford to pay the extras.

    Comment by Daniela | March 13, 2009 | Reply

  4. Okay did “Marketing Dave” get this idea from the commercial a few years ago where the sales guy could only say repeatedly “Great 500 it is.” I remember at one point after being rebuffed at the client’s door he simply slid himself under it.

    Great makings of a funny commercial…but I think that people as you say Bonnie should personalize their pitch only after they have established themselves as a viable “solution” and not simply as a “service” with their client’s or prospects.

    Something old “Marketing Dave” here might want to think about before we swings by to pick himself up from your office. Thanks for the post. Andy

    Comment by Andy Donovan | March 18, 2009 | Reply

  5. Oh, Cardboard Dave will be ready for pickup, don’t you worry.

    I’m shocked that someone would have this type of expense in their budget, the printing, and delivery must have been out of this world, and lord knows how many they sent! Not to mention the fact that really, they didn’t send it to the person who would in the end make any useful descisions about their agency….well that’s just bad research on their part.

    Also? I’m actually stunned TE never did this when we were at CNW….this kind of cheesy tactic has his hame all over it! lol

    Comment by Karina | March 26, 2009 | Reply

  6. […] Son of Son of a Pitch! UPDATE to Son of a Pitch! […]

    Pingback by Son of Son of a Pitch! « Bons mots | April 2, 2009 | Reply

  7. Damn! That’s brilliant! I’m ordering one. Ask “Dave” where he got it printed.

    Comment by Leon | May 1, 2009 | Reply

  8. […] UPDATE to Son of a Pitch! […]

    Pingback by Son of Son of a Pitch! | October 31, 2009 | Reply

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