How to Pitch Anything to Anyone

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Ladies and germs, when the greats come down to mingle with us commoners, it's wise to heed their words. And Tuesday, Kevin Allen -- the guy who pitched MasterCard's "priceless campaign" -- revealed how he attacks his pitches in a post for the Harvard Business Review. It's a sexy topic lately, and although there might not be the data to back it up, I'm willing to bet there might be more people now than ever considering jumping into a career in copywriting or some other form of advertising thanks in part to the success of Mad Men.

Mad Men's ad campaigns, like Allen's MasterCard campaign, are successful because they aren't gimmicky or festering with buzz words. They're about people. In a pitch, you aren't just saying what you can do for them. Believe me, I know. I pitch stories and story ideas all the time, be it in my freelancing exploits or in the works of fiction I'm working on.

Allen does a fantastic job of laying out exactly what you need to accomplish in landing a pitch. Which is, actually, pretty simple. Here's his checklist, from the post:

1. You need to understand that behind every decision lies a hidden agenda.
2. You need to do your emotional homework to find the hidden agenda.
3. You need to connect yourself to the hidden agenda.

He elaborates much, much more, of course. But here's one crucial fact just in case you've read this far and hated that MasterCard campaign: You weren't alone. When Mastercard tested it, Allen writes, it was poorly received. Still, MasterCard hired him anyway because "McCann Eriksson understood the deep desire of the MasterCard customer, but they understood MasterCard's deep desire, too."

And I tell you what. Even if you hated that campaign, I bet you still remember it.

And that's priceless. 

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a columnist for EGM. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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