Back to Events

A sculptor’s tale

There is a popular myth about the brilliant Renaissance artist, Michelangelo. When asked about the difficulties he must have encountered sculpting his masterpiece ‘David’, he replied with an unassuming description of his creative process:

‘It is easy. You just chip away the bits of stone that doesn’t look like David.’

It wasn’t long after I joined AAR that I started to get bored being presented to by agencies. I thought the opposite would happen. Surely seeing all this great work and hearing how it all came together would make this one of the best jobs in the world?

Confused by this unexpected feeling I started to track where I was getting most bored and discovered it was when we reached the section containing case studies. You know, the crescendo bit after the big build up. But there was no crescendo. It was as if I was staring at a cold slab of marble with a few dents in it, at best.


They all looked and sounded the same. They are all at the end; they all contain headings like ‘Problem’; ‘Solution’; a visual so small you have no idea what it is and, of course, some ‘Results’. All squashed onto one page. Madness!

The problem lies in the fact that when storing their case studies, agencies do so in a format that is driven more by awards than by new business. There’s a cupboard of case studies that are cut and pasted in according to the meeting they are about to have, and that is considered ‘tailored’.

Sadly in today’s uber-competitive world (pun intended), changing your case studies are a very quick and easy way to gain an advantage over your competitors. You simply have to chip away the bits of the case study that aren’t relevant to that prospective client.

And, as with sculptors, you will of course do that in your own style thus putting your agencies personality into the finished article.


Start by changing your focus from a case study that celebrates the work you did for that client to one that is relevant to this prospective client.

The easiest thing to change are the headings to reflect the issues the prospect is facing. Write a problem in the headline, not the word ‘Problem’. It’s generic and everyone else uses it, so you won’t stand out. Clients love to scan read first, so give them something that draws them in.

Be proud of your work and give it some air to breathe; go mad, add another page! Make it so interesting and relevant that, like the statue of David, you will want to walk all the way round it and marvel at the detail and skill of the sculptor’s hand.

In our next Masterclass on ‘How to build a strong agency proposition’, we will not only cover the subject of case studies but help you build a framework that you can take away and use to develop your own unique story. The seminar will provide insights built up over the past 40 years of witnessing ‘the good’, ‘the bad’ and, yes, occasionally, ‘the ugly’ attempts by agencies to win business. In this session, you’ll learn what works and what doesn’t when presenting your agency.


Tony Spong and Robin Charney, AAR.


Anyone involved in agency new business, and in particular, those reviewing their positioning to be ready for 2018.