Friday, 14 December 2007

WIFMs and 4Ps

I'll explain the title at the end but I thought I'd write about one of the stupidest meetings I've ever had in the media.

There is quite a competition for the accolade, believe me. There was the one where I asked the interweb company why the walls were covered in astroturf. "Ve arrr an incubator zo ze grass helps grow du bizzznesses" was the reply. They were Swedish by the way. You may have guessed that.

In another I addressed the two senior financial controller ladies of the company I was working for as "dolly dealers". Well, I was pitching away at a major satellite broadcaster and they were uncovering parts of a schedule for the channel I was selling - all on a giant multicoloured polystyrene grid we'd had made for a fortune - and I got carried away Brucie-stylee. And I was pitching to an American who had no idea what Play Your Cards Right was. He did laugh, though, but probably at me calling fat women 'dollies'.

But, no, the worst meeting was at Channel 4 around four years ago. They'd asked for theme nights - you know the sort, Top 100 Sitcoms, TV's Bestest Pets Ever and The 1,250 Most Annoying Clips of Kate Thornton.

We'd come up with a cracker. Swearing Night, a full evening of foul-mouthed shows. There were comedy links, alongside a documentary on the history of the C-word, that really sweary film with Ray Winston in it at the end, the ep of Sex In The City where they say the C-word a lot, Viz's Profanisaurus as a cartoon and other naughty delights. Our lovely programme treatment had pictures of Trevor McDonald with a speech bubble and the word 'arse biscuits' in it. For that alone I think we got a meeting.

I saw the Head Of Lists, Themes and That Kind of Thing. He was very nice, even introducing me to random other commissioning editors after the meeting. He was probably trying to palm me off on them, or desperately needed a pee, but he wanted us to do some work on the idea and come back, so it wasn't a bad meeting at all.

The next one was, with the Assistant Deputy Head of Clip Shows And So On. She flicked through the now-expanded treatment and then mused for a while. I'd brought along my tame producer to keep me company, and bless him, he'd even changed out of his normal garb (stained Charlton top, stonewash jeans, baseball hat and David Attenborough-style jacket). OK, all he'd done was put a black sweatshirt on instead of the footy shirt but it was something.

Dep. Head looked at the treatment, I blethered something about each page, then she put it on her desk and thought for a moment. I'd been taught at a sales conference to look for the SUN moment - SHUT UP NOW, where you say no more as that puts the buyer under pressure. Or something.

Alas this wasn't that kind of moment. The woman looked at me and my sidekick and said the following:-

"There won't be that much swearing in this, will there?"

It takes a lot to render me speechless, but this did. My producer was staring mouth agape. I'm sure I was only silent for five seconds but it seemed like aeons. I think I said something about, well, no, the swearing will not be constant to start with and--

I can't remember much else. We left and went to the pub and sat staring at each other in wonderment. No, of course there won't be much swearing in a full night of programmes named Swearing Night. No fucking way.

BBC Three did a similar night miles after we'd pitched it. No sign of Sir Trevor and his arse biscuits though.


Oh, and WIFM means 'What's In It For Me?' and is apparently what people you're selling to need to know before they'll buy anything. And 4Ps is PPPP, Pitch PowerPoint Presentation, something I'm glad to say I've never done as even I am not that much of a twunt.

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