It’s not the size of the deck… it’s how you use it

The agency board meetings were always more formal affairs

Forgive the intentional, smutty innuendo — it’s a cheap trick, but hey… it works. I mean, you’re reading this aren’t you?

First, some background… at a recent Easter gathering, in between shovelling in forkfuls of succulent lamb and consuming more chocolate than should be socially acceptable, a friend commented on Hollywood’s increasing pre-occupation with overlong movies

“Every film these days is 30–45 mins too long” he exclaimed “who’s got the time??” Hmmmm… interesting thought, I pondered. Turns out, he’s not wrong. According to Statista

In 2021, the average length of the top 10 highest-grossing movies in the United States and Canada amounted to 130.9 minutes (or two hours and 10 minutes). This figure is 17 percent higher than the average recorded in 1990–111.8 minutes (or one hour and 51 minutes).

The Batman (2hrs 56min). No Time To Die (2hrs 43mins). Dune (2hrs 35mins). And, of course, The Irishman (3hrs 29mins). Maybe it’s the autonomy with which streaming platforms gift established directors, and major studios are now affording them the same luxury to compete for their talent? Who knows!? But proof, if it were needed, that some of the best insights surface at Easter BBQ’s.

It now acts as a parable for what makes a good strategy — or at least the selling of a good strategy. Each of the aforementioned examples I’ve enjoyed to varying degrees, but came away with the same thought: each were unnecessarily long. Certain scenes felt needlessly drawn out. Unnecessary sub-plots added little to the core narrative. Or just Zendaya’s long lingering stares into the desert taking up at least 10–15mins of running time.

10–15mins of my life I won’t get back

With that in mind, why on earth should I, a lowly marketer with a tendency to procrastinate and over-explain, expect a client to sit through my 60-page strategy deck?? No matter how many compelling data points, pithy metaphors or consumer vox pops I might use? I’ll be the first to admit, and many colleagues will no doubt affirm… as storytelling goes, I’m no Scorcese.

Because selling a strategy should be like telling a story. You begin with the context (the problem behind the brief). You add a bit of jeopardy (the insight that creates tension), which leads to the exciting incident (your game-changing strategy) and conclude with how things have (or will) change once it’s fulfilled by the really talented people you work with —no pressure, creative.

And yet many of us (myself included) find it difficult to boil this relatively simple premise down to a mere 8–10 slides to act as visual aids for the story.

It’s an oft-told principle that strategy is as much about what you take out. You don’t get a ‘directors cut’ —if it’s been rigorously thought through, debated, picked apart and still stands up, then you should have the confidence to sell it and make your argument. Anything else is needless window dressing and, ironically, is more likely to distract from your central, compelling idea.

So next time you’re finessing your 29th slide, and still haven’t landed your pitch-winning point. Take a step back, deep breath and ask yourself… what needs to end up on the cutting room floor here?

Unless you’re Christopher Nolan. Then just do whatever the fuck you like, because you’re a genius!

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Marketing Strategist | Brand Purist | Digital Evangelist | “I know words. I have the best words.“

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Dan Marsh

Dan Marsh

Marketing Strategist | Brand Purist | Digital Evangelist | “I know words. I have the best words.“

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