“NHS managers dress as witches to dole out funds”

This was the headline in the Sunday Times earlier this month which you might have missed ( the news has been quite full on so far this year).


It explained that at one group of hospitals staff have had to “dress up as monkeys and blow toy trumpets to win funding for their projects.”  Projects to the value of hundreds of thousands of pounds.  One senior consultant is reported as saying “frankly, many of us think this is too ridiculous for words”.  Each meeting to pitch for funds, for a range of items including miniature cameras to allow bowel examinations, has a theme, including Halloween (hence the reference to witches ).


Can you, in the world of media and advertising, imagine a situation where pitching for serious budgets, maybe even millions of pounds let alone hundreds of thousands,  involved dressing up and stunts?


During a run of successful pitches at the start of this millennium there was a lot of dressing up involved.  There was a chat show format which we employed for one pitch.  For another our beloved ex chairman dressed as the mascot of one famous newspaper in full armour.  At a time when media agencies tended present exclusively from rather dry excel spreadsheet presentations delivered mainly by middle aged men in suits our approach, always with a serious point, certainly stood out.  If there were four media agencies, all promising to buy more cheaply, differentiating ourselves was important.


Once the news of success of our approach spread things changed of course.  When 3 out of 4 pitches all involved roller blades, ice skates and a brass band then the point became lost.  And pitch day must have been a bit confusing.


These days there’s a good deal more to talk about in the limited time you have during a pitch too.


The NHS has such a serious purpose – keeping us alive – that it might feel dissonant for there to be a parade of monkey attired executives pitching for cash.


If there’s a serious point that can be amplified and clarified by some dressing up however then we should adopt any story telling device that makes it clear.


Stunts for the sake of it though? It is worth bearing in mind that many busy managers, under continual pressure to demonstrate romi and improve the bottom line, can forgive most things at work apart from having their time wasted.




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