How to do justice to a good idea: BBH

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Johnny Tan
Johnny Tan

Poor presentation skills bury more good ideas than an undertaker, according to Johnny Tan of BBH Shanghai. He says great presentations are like great stories.

SINGAPORE — BBH Shanghai's chief creative officer, Johnny Tan, believes a lot of good ideas fail to develop into something tangible due to poor presentation.

Tan, speaking at the recent Spikes Asia Festival of Creativity here, offered the scenario of two men running from a bear to show that it doesn't take too much to outsmart the competition and avoid becoming someone’s lunch.

First and foremost, Tan said, agencies need to recognize that the first consumer is their client. However, training in presentation skills is woefully lacking, he said, with the result that many strong ideas are lost amid unnecessary theatricality, lack of audience awareness, and overly complex messages.

Key points in Tan's talk:

  • Great presentations are like great stories. "People love narratives," he said. "They help sell without having to sell."
  • Avoid gimmicks. Guitars, scented candles and the like do nothing to persuade a client to buy into your idea.
  • Understand the client’s mindset. They are rarely looking for something risky. Anything remotely risky needs to be packaged in such a way that the benefits outweigh the doubt.
  • Make it easy to say yes, or at least difficult to say no. Tan gave the example of the recent campaign for Johnnie Walker featuring an improvised Bruce Lee. The agency had already done the preliminaries with Lee’s family and lawyers before presenting the idea.
  • Think in terms of ethos, logos and pathos. Use one or use all three, "but use them wisely," Tan said. "The better you sell, the less scam there will be."

Campaign’s observation: A worthwhile message that thankfully came through without the aid of loaded PowerPoint slides. Good ideas don’t always sell themselves. At the same time, making something seem overly complex is always a bad policy. Be straight, but do it with wit and with heart.

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