David is a leader of advertising, marketing and brand-building initiatives, with experience at agencies, client-side and in-house, including BBDO, Chiat/Day and Havas. He’s partnered with brands like Sony, Lowe’s home improvement, DirecTV, Keurig, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Pizza Hut, Visa and DuPont. He has expertise in integrated marketing, digital marketing and brand strategy, with proven success leading sales-building, award-winning campaigns in financial services, retail, technology, telecommunications, travel/tourism, food/beverage, and non-profits.
David has led a range of successful brand platforms and campaigns, including Lowe’s “Never Stop Improving,” Liberty Mutual Insurance “Liberty Stands With You,” Keurig “Brew the Love” (featuring James Corden), Green Mountain Coffee “Packed With Goodness,” and for our current client NJM Insurance with “No Jingles or Mascots.”
David leads Brownstein's client services team, orchestrating our integrated teams to deliver compelling campaigns that drive business results and create unstoppable brands.
LBB> What was your first sale or new business win? (Was it a big or small job? How difficult or scary was it? What do you remember about how you felt? What lessons did you learn?)
David> I had been part of new business pitches as I progressed in my account management roles, but the first time I was the primary leader on a new business pitch team at an agency, it was for a medium-sized account for a tech startup. My team and I approached the pitch as an opportunity to create an entirely new brand, so I found it exhilarating to share this approach with the client, and we won the pitch. As an advertising person, I’ve often thought that it’s healthy to think about sharing ideas with clients that you are excited about, versus approaching it like a “sales” moment. When you have engaging creative ideas to present, you are excited to share them, and this will show through in pitch meetings. It’s not classic selling; it’s sharing new thinking.
LBB> What was the best piece of advice you got early on?
David> Develop your personal style of presenting, and be confident in sharing the agency’s ideas, with the knowledge you aren’t just showing them a new campaign, you are creating highly valuable intellectual property. Your confidence and excitement will be infectious to the entire room.
LBB> And the worst?
David> Keep tinkering and rewriting the presentation, right up until the meeting, to make it perfect. I later learned that a systematic approach, combined with decisiveness along the way, actually allows for more and better ideas to be crafted. Plus, teams present better when the work is done and they can practice their presentation…and get some sleep the night before the pitch.
LBB> How has the business of ‘selling’ in the creative industry changed since you started?
David> As digital tools have evolved, our ability to present ideas in a very realistic and impactful way has improved, and this has enhanced the focus on the quality of our work and our ideas. However, the core elements of selling have remained the same, including deeply understanding a client’s marketing and strategic challenges, sharing fresh approaches to solve them effectively, and connecting as a potential partnership with a positive chemistry.
LBB> Can anyone be taught to sell or do new business or do you think it suits a certain kind of personality?
David> I believe it can be taught, though it’s important to love what we do in building brands and crafting compelling campaigns, so this energy can be shared with potential clients. Even with different presenting styles, your conviction and passion can show through to clients. It also fuels the quick thinking required in a pitch, as we are typically given a short timeframe to analyze a client’s challenge and propose fresh, impactful solutions. And finally, the rapid pace of the pitch process will naturally bring a steady amount of “no’s” from clients that aren’t the right fit, but this love will keep you resilient in outreach to new business prospects as you seek to form connections with clients who will say “yes” to your powerful ideas.
LBB> What are your thoughts about the process of pitching that the industry largely runs on? (e.g. How can it be improved - or does it need done away with completely? Should businesses be paid to pitch? What are your thoughts about businesses completely refusing to engage in pitching? How can businesses perform well without ‘giving ideas away for free?)
David> I have always thought that a client should be able to research agency options, including their existing portfolio of work, and interview those agencies to hone in on a decision. I spent a few years on the client side and practiced what I preached, meeting with agencies and finding the right fit without asking for spec work. If clients asked for the opportunity for a conversation, I’m sure most agencies would respond.
Having said that, the level of competition for new business is so high that you have to be prepared to pitch and to go for it when you have the opportunity. If you have a system for developing pitches, and confidence in your agency’s work, it can be done efficiently without overtasking agency resources. I do think it would be fair for clients to offer at least a basic compensation to agencies when they are asking for spec ideas.
LBB> What’s your advice for anyone who’s not necessarily come up as a salesperson who’s now expected to sell or win new business as part of their role?
David> If you are in advertising, remember that you develop powerful, game-changing brand strategies and compelling creative campaigns. So, you should be excited to apply your thinking to potential new clients, and tackle new marketing challenges. You don’t have to think of yourself as a classic salesperson, with a polished approach and extensive sales training; but rather someone with ideas they are eager and excited to share with clients.
It’s like doing presentations. You’re not a politician giving a speech with a teleprompter. You’re an advertising expert who just can’t wait to talk about some exciting new ideas. Just get up there and share those fun, fresh ideas and good things will happen.