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The War Room

Posted on July 31, 2003 and read 8,545 times

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I am in the knowledge business. My role is business development – I understand it, I like it. As hard as I work, I have always found that the best clients aren’t the ones that I prospect; but those who find me.

Over the past few months, I have been approached by a handful of a most curious breed of knowledge-seekers, my title-holding kin in the advertising community. I’ve learned from these veterans that multi-million dollar accounts are decided not by an agency’s reputation, but more so by what knowledge a team can assemble – often in a matter of days.

As these relationships have developed, it seems that I have quickly tumbled into the inner sanctum of your peculiar world – the new business “war room”.

I would say that this vault is aptly-named. In my early encounters with your new business tacticians, I felt like a character in Tom Clancy’s next military thriller…


“Dammit, don’t you get it? Our future is riding on this!” screamed General Newbiz as both fists pounded the board-room table. “If we don’t know who we are up against, we MUST know everything else!”

The room’s senior ranking officer sat at the end of the table that filled the window-less room. To his right was his most trusted soldier, Corporal Plannere. At times like this, there was no one that General Newbiz would rather have by his side. Her strategic thinking was the stability that this room relied on. Plannere was accompanied by her team of research operatives.

Across from the Corporal was Sergeant Creativo, a man with big ideas and a proven track record – the best around. While others stared down the man standing at the front of the room, his eyes glazed at the one misplaced acoustic tile on the ceiling. It didn’t seem that he was concerned by its unwillingness to settle into the tracks like all of its companions – his mind contemplated a much more troubling problem.

At the top of the wall behind the Sergeant, was a wooden sign that read “The Brand”. The wall was covered with propaganda that had been distributed during earlier, unsuccessful campaigns. Posters, marketing packages and television screen shots were strategically fixed to the walls – red ink marked the critical mistakes that led to the demise of each effort. Someone had drawn an arrow from a magazine ad to a message feverishly scribbled on the white board, “Let’s not make the same mistake these poor saps did!”

The wall across from “The Brand” was much less purposefully decorated. Here were affixed layers of yellow, lined paper. The sheets from the deeper layers that were still visible were adorned with clearly written phrases and statistics that likely related in some way to the wall’s title, “The Market”; each one neatly scotch-taped to the wall. The layers that followed were not crafted with such care. Penmanship and eloquence deteriorated to such a state that the outer-most pages were crudely fastened to the wall at dangerous angles with duct tape and the most prominent message, scrawled in black marker read “Its just really f&*$ing BIG!”.

The north wall was strikingly bland in comparison to its neighbors. On “The Consumer” was a portrait of a 26-35 year old, Caucasian male, dressed in a white collared shirt. In his left hand he carried 2 children. In right hand was what appeared to be a paycheck for $2500.

At the front of the room a Non-commissioned officer stood, remote in hand, blinded by the pyramid of light that shone from the projector. The NCO seemed proud of the logo-adorned PowerPoint slide that he had created. The senior officials in the room, however, knew not to judge its content by this bit of craftiness. In 28-point, Arial font, the title slide read, “What we know so far…”

Even before the presenter could begin, the general interrupted him, “…what we know so far is exactly what everybody else already knows! Before we go any further, let me introduce you all to someone…”

Chief Intelligence Officer, Commandant Goodwin sat in a well-appointed waiting area outside of the war room. A highly-trained gate-keeper kept vigil at the door. The only words spoken to him were in a direct, friendly tone, “They are ready for you now, Sir”.

He stood and made his way to through the opened door. “Come in Commandant Goodwin, and close the door behind you.”


While “knowledge management” has become something of a buzz-phrase for corporate CEO’s, its necessity cannot be discredited for those who deliver the goods on behalf of intellectual organizations. New Business Developers are the front line intellectuals for ad agencies, and in a new business pitch what they know is all they have.

Clients are looking for innovative, strategic thinking developed from resourceful and comprehensive background knowledge. Regardless of the style of a pitch, it is clear that complete research on the consumer, brand and marketplace, and as much sector insight as possible, is paramount.

It may not be accurate to liken the advertising industry to the military, but the goings on in your war room would impress even the most regimented general. It has been a joy to work in an environment that marries creativity and strategy in such a professional way. I look forward to my next assignment.

Grant Goodwin is the founder of BrainMass Professional, an organization of more than 1500 MBA and PhD-level experts located in 70 countries. This community has been mobilized to provide immediate, on-demand knowledge across 130 business and academic disciplines.




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