Allen Adamson on Securing Deals with Storytelling, Preparation, and Agency-Client Synergy

Allen Adamson is a noted industry expert in all disciplines of branding. He has worked with a broad spectrum of consumer and corporate businesses in industries ranging from packaged goods and technology, to health care and financial services, to hospitality and entertainment. Given his broad perspective and depth of experience, Allen is able to help clients see and seize opportunities before the competition, activating solutions that enable them to shift ahead of the market, generating long-term value and increased brand equity. He and his teams help clients identify what truly matters to the audiences they serve – what is relevant to them – and deliver on it brilliantly.

Allen’s newest book, Seeing the How: Achieving Market Advantage by Transforming the Stuff We Do, Not the Stuff We Buy, published in May 2023, focuses on the consumer experience as a competitive advantage, and how this change in perspective has allowed companies to achieve dramatic growth and categorical leadership. The book’s driving idea was sparked by Allen’s recognition that experience transformation has been fast outpacing product transformation as a winning and sustainable marketing strategy.

His previous books, BrandSimple, BrandDigital, The Edge: 50 Tips from Brands that Lead and, Shift Ahead, are used as textbooks in higher education business programs across the country.

Allen’s multifaceted knowledge of all things brand and branding is the result of having worked on both the agency side of the business, and the client side. He spent the earliest part of his career as a marketing executive in packaged goods, at Unilever, one of the world’s largest consumer goods companies, where he oversaw a broad range of consumer products. He is proud to acknowledge that he spent a lot of his early business life in supermarket aisles, perusing one aisle or another in order to gain an understanding of the consumers’ outlook– and that of his brands’ competitors.

On the agency side, Allen held senior management positions at iconic advertising firms, including Ogilvy & Mather and DMB&B, before arriving at Landor Associates, a full-spectrum brand consultancy dealing with brand development and the myriad factors that makes one brand more successful than another. He eventually rose to the position of Chairman. Under his leadership, the company partnered with a variety of global brands, including Accenture, GE, Johnson & Johnson, FedEx, HBO, Marriott, MetLife, P&G, Sony, and Verizon. Additionally, he guided non-profit organizations, including the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, the Central Park Conservancy, and the Council on Foreign Relations, among others.

For the past several years, Allen has been an Adjunct Professor and frequent guest lecturer at New York University’s Stern School of Business, and the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University, where he lectures on the significant and numerous challenges brands are confronting – and overcoming – in a fast-changing marketplace. He also serves as the brand expert-in-residence at the Berkley Center for Entrepreneurship at NYU Stern, working with student entrepreneurs from across NYU to help them develop and execute their brand “story,” providing guidance on the many aspects required to launch successful brands.

Given the depth and breadth of his expertise – his perspective of brands from both an academic and a long-standing practitioner’s point of view – Allen has been called on as an expert witness for companies across a number of industries involved in litigation over the protection of their brand assets, the distinguishing characteristics that differentiate one brand from another. His multidimensional experience makes him unparalleled in his ability to offer valuable insight to those defending brands that have come under competitive threat and encroachment of these assets.

 A sought-after industry commentator, Allen has appeared on ABC News, NBC’s Today Show, CNBC’s Squawk Box and Closing Bell, and Fox Business Network. He is often quoted in publications including The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Advertising Age, the Washington Post, and Forbes. He also regularly writes a column on current branding topics. He speaks on branding for a range of professional organizations, corporate events, and industry conferences.

Allen is Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Metaforce (, a disruptive marketing and brand consultancy which, unlike traditional firms, takes a multi-disciplinary channel-agnostic approach to marketing challenges. It was created to help leaders understand all the forces at work inside and outside their businesses to identify strategies yielding the highest returns. Once determining the best strategy, Metaforce’s consortium of partners, each industry expert in their field, pivots to help clients brilliantly act on and execute customer experiences in the market. Metaforce combines the best aspects of brand management, strategy, and experience consultancies to deliver solutions that ensure its clients shift ahead of the dramatic marketplace changes to meet fast-evolving customer needs.

Allen received his B.S. from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, and an MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business.

We’re speaking with Allen today about the art of pitching and how storytelling, preparation, and agency-client synergy can secure deals. We are treated to his valuable insights from his diverse experiences in filmmaking, advertising, and working with Unilever. He explains the importance of a polished pitch and how a cinematic approach to presenting can captivate clients. We’ll also discuss strategies for differentiation in pitches, the magic of engaging presentations, and the evolving landscape of marketing agencies and client relationships. Looking towards the future, we examine how to navigate the changes with a focus on team chemistry and tailored client strategies.

Topics covered during this episode include:

  • Why preparation and rehearsal are critical for a compelling presentation.
  • The role that having a creative idea plays in differentiating agency pitches.
  • How emotional engagement and surprise factor into crafting an unforgettable pitch.
  • Why team chemistry is essential for a successful pitch.
  • How to navigate the dynamic relationship between agencies and clients.
  • What strategies secure long-term client-agency partnerships.
  • Some personal stores that illustrate the importance of synergy in pitches.
  • What future disruptions in marketing might impact agency-client relations.
  • How thought leadership and authoring a book can enhance your professional status.
  • Why meticulous focus and editing are necessary for pitch presentations.
  • More tips about how agencies can differentiate themselves to stand out to prospects.
  • What interactive strategies can make pitch meetings memorable for clients.
  • How to effectively personalize team introductions during pitches.
  • Why team dynamics during pitches should be likened to casting for a Broadway show.
  • What upcoming challenges traditional marketing agencies may face.
  • How freelancers are increasingly filling expertise gaps in agency pitches.
  • Why it’s crucial to tailor strategies to the client’s specific needs during pitches.
  • How to create a winning pitch by balancing standout ideas with thorough RFP responses.
  • Why it’s beneficial to engage clients in workshops before pitching to them.

Allen Adamson on LinkedIn:

Crafting Top-Notch Business Proposals with Stephen Cribbett

Stephen Cribbett, co-founder of Versiti, is a seasoned expert in business development and crafting winning business proposals. His background includes work with design and brand agencies, utilizing a consultative and listening-oriented approach to sales.

This week we’re diving into the strategies that set apart successful business proposals, along with how to secure wins in a competitive market. We also hear about how Stephen’s love for motorsport translates into the precision and strategic thinking needed in sales. We’ll even unpack the challenges small agencies face and the tactics they can utilize to outpace industry giants in the race to secure big projects.

Topics covered during this episode include:

  • Why a consultative, listening-oriented approach can dramatically improve sales outcomes.
  • How understanding client needs aligns with crafting successful business proposals.
  • Why comparing racing precision to sales strategy offers valuable business insights.
  • How smaller agencies can compete with larger firms using academic insights.
  • Why specialized knowledge can transform an agency’s pitch from forgettable to front-runner.
  • How a “shall we bid” matrix helps agencies make rational decisions on project pursuits.
  • Why answering every question thoughtfully on tender documents is crucial for success.
  • How specialized expertise leads to winning high-profile projects without pitching.
  • How proactively addressing client issues positions an agency ahead of the competition.
  • Why using workflow management tools like is important for organizing proposal efforts.
  • How agencies can demonstrate value even when previous client work is confidential.
  • Why recruiting team members with relevant experience can maximize success in winning new business.
  • How mindset shifts and rigorous proposal processes improve an agency’s win ratios.

Stephen Cribbett on LinkedIn:

The Competitive Edge in B2B Sales Through Relationship Building with Jonathan McCallum

Jonathan McCallum joined George P. Johnson UK, over seven years ago as Vice President, Chief Strategy Officer and was promoted in 2021 to Managing Director UK & Nordics. With his experience rooted in strategy, Jonathan McCallum leads the agency’s approach to strategy fueled experience design and underpins the importance of being client-centric. Building on the momentum the agency had seen, in 2022 Jonathan led the UK team to achieve significant growth despite the turbulent industry landscape; opening new offices across the globe, doubling in size and welcoming new global partners. His work spans across GPJ’s client portfolio, overseeing teams like Cisco, IBM, DP World,, Workday, Envestnet, and Equinor. Jonathan continues to help GPJ evolve and push new approaches to creating environments and experiences in physical, as well as digital, spaces; informing and inspiring the solutions to positively influence the success of clients.

In this episode, Jonathan helps us explore the intricacies of B2B sales success, particularly how procurement strategies and relationship building influence winning business pitches. Jonathan shares his insights on the significance of procurement teams and the power of pre-existing connections in closing deals. We’ll also discuss the evolution of procurement technologies and their impact on client-agency dynamics.

Topics covered during this episode include:

  • Why understanding client motivations and procurement objectives is vital in the pitch process.
  • How a competitive spirit in sports parallels strategic business moves for commercial success.
  • Why over 70% of business pitch victories are linked to pre-existing client relationships.
  • More advantages of having prior engagement with clients in business pitches.
  • Why nurturing procurement relationships is essential, even outside the standard RFP process.
  • How quality quarterly business reviews and service level agreements impact client satisfaction.
  • Why automated RFP processes can limit the development of client-agency relationships.
  • How artificial intelligence might influence future procurement strategies and agency dynamics.
  • Why focusing on pitch wins rather than losses can improve commercial success rates.
  • How agency dynamics and client selection criteria contribute to successful business pitches.
  • Why agencies should be selective in bid qualification to increase win percentages.
  • How relationship-building with procurement teams can lead to contract extensions.
  • Why understanding pricing and client perspectives is crucial for agencies in pitches.
  • How AI may assist in providing insights, but cannot replace creativity or relationship-building.

Jonathan McCallum on LinkedIn:

Crafting Financial Success Through Creative Innovation with Emma de la Fosse

Emma, the Chief Creative Officer at Edelman UK, joins us this week. With a diverse background that spans brand advertising, direct, and digital, Emma began her career as a PA before transitioning into a leading creative role. At Edelman, she is responsible for all of the creative output of the business.

In this episode, Emma explains all about creativity in business. We learn about the unique path her career has evolved on, and tackle the challenge of preserving creativity in corporate negotiations. We also explore how to value creative outcomes over time, involving creatives in financial decisions, and crafting success through creative financial innovation.

Topics covered during this episode include:

  • Why flexibility is crucial in procurement processes to foster creativity.
  • What differences Emma sees between buying an undefined creative process and a known creative product.
  • Why Emma argues against the traditional model of billing by the hour for creative services.
  • “Thin slicing” and its importance in rapid decision-making in creativity.
  • More on why outcome-based engagement is more beneficial than time-based billing.
  • How the “bed, bath, or bus” concept relates to creativity and billing.
  • How involving creatives in financial discussions benefits the creative agency-client relationship.
  • The consequences of separating creative teams from media and strategy teams.
  • How Emma’s role at Edelman demonstrates an integrated team approach to creativity in business.
  • Why experience is crucial for quick and effective problem solving in creative industries.
  • How Emma’s background contributes to her understanding of the creative and commercial balance.
  • The challenges of aligning the best creative solutions with agency profitability.
  • How Emma’s insights reflect on the adaptability of the creative process to financial constraints.

Emma de la Fosse on LinkedIn:

Leveraging Emotional Intelligence in Sales with Trenton Moss

Experience the future of sales and marketing with our latest guest, Trenton Moss, founder of Team Sterka. With his finger on the pulse of technology’s impact on business, Trenton provides a unique perspective on how emotional intelligence and people skills can streamline decision-making and lead to business growth.

Drawing on his 15 years of experience running his own agency, Trenton and I examine the current state of the pitch process, the obstacles of procurement, and how his agency experienced a 35% growth through a client leadership program.

Topics covered during this episode include:

  • Why involving everyone in the process of growing accounts in an agency setting is crucial.
  • The inherent limitations of the traditional pitch process in the advertising industry.
  • Why the skills required to win a pitch are different from those needed to deliver work.
  • The challenges faced in procurement within the marketing and advertising world.
  • How artificial intelligence can revolutionize the traditional RFP process.
  • The predicted impact of technology, especially AI, on the sales and marketing process.
  • How agencies can secure big brand clients without pitching by creating exclusive communities.
  • Why authenticity and emotional intelligence are essential in client development within the B2B sales industry.
  • The concept of “winning without pitching.”
  • How a unique selling point can help agencies win pitches.
  • The importance of differentiating your agency at its core to stand out in a saturated market.
  • Why client development programs are great for developing necessary skills.
  • How technology is predicted to disrupt and change the agency world at a rapid pace.
  • The role of bravery and authenticity in standing out in the B2B sales industry.
  • How creating a unique proposition can lead to significant success for agencies.
  • Developing client leadership skills to achieve agency success.
  • The potential for a socialist structure in the agency world.

Trenton Moss on LinkedIn:

Navigating the Aging Population in Business with Avivah Wittenberg-Cox

Avivah Wittenberg-Cox is CEO, writer, speaker, coach, consultant, change agent – depending on the call and the context. She is a global expert on 21st century leadership, gender and generational balance, longevity and the future of work and careers. She is a Harvard 2022 Advanced Leadership Fellow and is helping individuals and organisations manage the transitions and extensions of the 2nd and 3rd Quarters of 100-year lives. Themes summarised in her latest graphic book Thriving to 100 – Through Life’s 4 Quarters. She is an Ambassador for the Stanford Center on Longevity, and the Global Peter Drucker Forum, and sits on the Boards of the National Innovation Centre on Ageing (NICA) and the Chartered Management Institute’s ‘Everyone Economy’ Board. She is also an Adjunct Professor at DePaul University in Chicago. In 2023, Avivah was inducted into the Thinkers50 Hall of Fame.

As the CEO of 20-first, Avivah works with organisations focused on capturing the competitive advantages of the future of work and the impacts of changing demographic trends on talent and markets. Author of WHY Women Mean Business (Wiley), and 7 Steps to Leading a Gender-Balanced Business (HBR), she is also a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review and Forbes, as well as a sought-after speaker with three TEDx talks. Avivah was given a Lifetime Achievement Award for Gender Balanced Leadership by PWN Global, was named one of the world’s 40 Most Inspiring Women Over 40 and was recently featured in a Financial Times article on how women are changing the future of management.

In her own 1st and 2nd Quarters of life, Avivah grew up in Canada, attended the University of Toronto as a joint Computer Science/ Comparative Literature major, went to Paris for a year and stayed for 30, completing an MBA at INSEAD along the way. Avivah holds 3 passports (CDN, F, CH), lives in London with her sculptor/ magistrate husband and visits her two grown, gender-balanced children, a son and daughter based in Dakar and New York. She is tracking her own path through her 60s and all things longevity in a weekly newsletter called elderberries.

In this episode, Avivah takes us into the world of generational balancing. She explains the complex dynamics of demographic change, the unique attributes of people throughout different quarters of their lives, and the profound impact of longevity on businesses and economies. Avivah emphasizes the importance of breaking down stereotypes between employers and older workers along with confronting ageism. This episode highlights the significance of adapting to the Q3 generation’s needs for businesses to thrive in today’s dynamic landscape.

Topics covered during this episode include:

  • Why it’s important to understand demographic change.
  • The Q3 generation and the impact of living longer lives on businesses and economies.
  • The difference in negotiating strategies that differentiate Q2 from Q3 individuals.
  • Why the demographic shift of the number of older individuals being on par with younger ones is significant.
  • How the future of aging and the role of intergenerational engagement is evolving.
  • Why preventive care is crucial in an aging world.
  • How stereotypes and misconceptions between employers and older workers can be broken down.
  • The potential role of AI in performance evaluation.
  • How the world is designed for Q2 individuals and the need for this to change.
  • The importance of gender and generational balance in businesses.
  • The impact of an aging population on consumer buying decisions.
  • Why the benefits of gender and generational balance can give businesses a competitive advantage.
  • How life expectancy varies across different populations and countries.
  • Why it’s necessary for organizations to engage with the older workforce.
  • The issue of ageism and how it can be addressed effectively.
  • How AI can help potentially save us from ageism.
  • The importance of individuals being adaptable and lifelong learners in an aging population.
  • How Q3 individuals can prove their value to employers through demonstrating learnability, curiosity, growth mindset, and tech skills.

Avivah Wittenberg-Cox on LinkedIn:

Maximizing Sales Win Rates with Kevin Gibbons

Today we’re welcoming Kevin Gibbons, the founder of Re:signal, a strategy-driven SEO and content marketing agency in London. His company works with clients such as Asics and Under Armour, and has just recently launched its US operations.

Kevin shares his journey from being a reluctant salesperson to an overwhelmingly successful entrepreneur and offers insights on his agency’s growth. We’ll explore the nuances of maximizing sales win rates, the art of negotiation, and the significance of empathy in the sales process. Kevin gives an inside look at selling SEO services, revealing the importance of understanding the objectives of the client.

Topics covered during this episode include:

  • How to maximize sales win rates in the B2B industry.
  • Why the power of empathy is critical in securing larger clients.
  • Pre-qualifying opportunities to increase win rates.
  • Why understanding the brief and objectives is crucial in pricing and selling SEO services.
  • How to offer flexible pricing options based on the value delivered.
  • Why understanding procurement and effective negotiation is essential.
  • How to revive large deals using effective negotiation tactics.
  • Why preparing in advance for negotiations is so important.
  • How to avoid quickly discounting prices without any exchange.
  • The usefulness of having procurement experience in negotiations.
  • How to reach a mutually beneficial agreement by looking at things from the clients’ side of the table.
  • Why pre-qualification is an essential tool in maximizing sales win rates.
  • How to use a discovery template to build out a sales capability.
  • How to trade, rather than discount, during negotiations.
  • Why procurement should view investments with a return rather than focusing on cost reduction.

Kevin Gibbons on LinkedIn:

How An Open Mindset Ensures Successful Negotiations with Kris Tait

Kris Tait is the Managing Director, US at Croud. He’s spent the last 12 years building his career in sales with the company, and has seen it grow from 5 to 500 employees in that time. His journey from a shy child to a sales expert even includes a unique stint with Butlers in the Buff. He credits an open mindset and strategic storytelling as keys to his success.

We’ll hear from Kris about how he became the sales professional he is today, discussing the power that his open mindset brings to procurement and negotiations. Kris also shares insights on the importance of having a collective mindset in business growth, why strategic storytelling is useful, and the art of building relationships before a negotiation even begins. We wrap up with a discussion on the evolution of procurement outcomes.

Topics covered during this episode include:

  • What Kris’ childhood looked like due to his shyness at the time.
  • Why Kris believes an open mindset is crucial in procurement and negotiations.
  • How to predict and qualify opportunities from both casual client briefs and official RFPs.
  • Why pricing strategy is the secret sauce to Croud’s discovery process.
  • How calculated risks and strategic storytelling can set an agency apart from the competition.
  • Understanding the evolution of outcomes being a key aspect of procurement.
  • The importance of building relationships before a negotiation begins to increase receptiveness.
  • What it was like being a Butler in the Buff.
  • Why diagnosis matters when tackling briefs in sales and negotiation.
  • The role of collective mindset in scaling Croud from 5 to 500 people.
  • How Kris’s sales journey has been influenced by the mindset of Croud’s founders.
  • The benefits of strategic pricing, and who Kris learned about this method from.
  • How to approach procurement with an open mindset to ensure successful negotiations.
  • The importance of providing evidence in negotiations and being open to challenges.
  • Dealing with price increases by leading with data and logic.

Kris Tait on LinkedIn:

Gareth Turner, ex-brand Marketing Director, on how to win more pitches

Gareth Turner is the former Head of Marketing at Weetabix, where he oversaw the long-term brand strategy for the nation’s favourite cereal. He has over 23 years’ experience working within food and drink and has also had the pleasure of leading the marketing for household name brands like John Smith’s, Bulmers, Lurpak, and Arla in local and global roles.

Career highlights (so far) include buying a racehorse for John Smith’s, new product launches like Bulmers fruit ciders and the partnership between the FA senior men’s and women’s teams and Weetabix. In 2021 Gareth’s team unleashed the multi award winning “Beanz on Bix” on the world and broke the internet in the process.

Since leaving Weetabix, Gareth has worked with household name brand teams like Coop, Birdseye (Nomad Foods) and Kingsmill (Allied Bakeries) to mentor their marketing leaders. He has also worked with scale-up, challenger brands like Mighty Drinks and Spoon Cereals to bring structure to and improve their marketing, and is a Non-Executive Director for Route, a media agency based in Newcastle.

Gareth is a regular guest on podcasts both video and audio, and has spoken at numerous events including MAD//Fest, Prolific North and the Marketing Meetup as both a keynote speaker and panel guest. He is also a regular contributor to marketing titles including Marketing Week.

Today, Gareth will explain the intricacies of the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) industry, including agency pitches, their emotional impact, and the importance of chemistry. We also explore the critical role procurement plays in securing new agencies. Later, we venture into maintaining agency relationships while highlighting the importance of broader business challenges and two-way conversations.

Topics covered during this episode include:

  • How Gareth navigated his career in the FMCG industry.
  • Experience with brands like Heineken, Arla Foods, and Weetabix.
  • Why a realistic brief is important in agency pitches, and the emotional impact it has on agencies and clients.
  • How LinkedIn can be used to gather valuable information about clients.
  • The significance of understanding various business pressures.
  • Securing new agencies while making the process robust and defensible.
  • Why reaching a mutual understanding and having two-way conversations maintain agency relationships.
  • How to utilize different resources to aid clients.
  • Considering the broader challenges that may be affecting the business.
  • The story behind the controversial Beanz on Bix tweet and the public reaction to it.
  • Why agency pitches can be draining for both agencies and clients, and how to avoid this.
  • How Gareth managed to save money without having to run a pitch, and the strategies he used.
  • Getting the best deal from a supplier, within reason.
  • Researching clients on LinkedIn and understanding their backgrounds for better agency pitches.
  • How Gareth made a strategic investment in hiring the right people to influence the success of his project.
  • Why chemistry is an essential ingredient in building successful client relationships in the FMCG industry.

Gareth Turner on LinkedIn:


Big Black Door:

Scaling a Successful Marketing Agency: Insights from Tim Ringel

Tim Ringel is a seasoned entrepreneur who has a history of building successful marketing agencies. His path from a performance marketing agency to running a stock market-listed company has transformed his approach to scaling. Tim is also currently leading his new venture, Meet The People, which is based in New York City.

We’ll discuss Tim’s unique career trajectory, the power of creativity in marketing, and his strategies for business success amidst the pandemic. We also explore the potential of a customer-centric approach in agency business models and the impact of AI on marketing agencies.

Topics covered during this episode include:

  • How Tim started his entrepreneurial journey in a performance marketing agency.
  • Why Tim moved to a creative agency and his experiences with larger holding companies.
  • How Tim tripled the size of his business in three years.
  • Incentivizing teams and creating a virtual P&L to ensure the success of clients.
  • The ways that Tim’s journey shaped his views on media and creativity.
  • Why Tim appreciates the power of creative storytelling and how it can be used to captivate audiences.
  • Strategies that Tim used to keep his business alive during the pandemic.
  • Why Tim believes collaboration can be incentivized for business success.
  • How to build trust in order to win pitches.
  • The importance of authenticity and creativity in the industry.
  • Why Tim believes a customer-centric approach is beneficial in agency business models.
  • How AI’s impact on marketing agencies can help entrepreneurs.
  • Keeping client success at the heart of all operations.
  • How Tim transitioned from a performance marketing agency to a creative agency, and the resulting shift in his perception of media and creativity.

Tim Ringel on LinkedIn: