Some recent digging through the book collection resulted in a rare find – a few words of promotional writing for a design agency that made me smile. This is not a common occurrence. Overwhelmingly I find myself gagging on the usual 'strategic blue-sky thinking eyewash' (hang on, can you gag on eyewash?). It concerns a topic I've posted on before, that being pitching. These words are by the irrepressible Graham Hart.

Everything in life has a mathematical basis.1 Mathematicians tell us this – and they should know. Having proved that a golfer's swing, the patterns on a butterfly's wing and your chance of winning the lottery are all determined by maths, they have told us to turn our attentions to a new field: competitive pitching. While everybody knows that there are no clear formulae for success, mathematicians have been trying to prove the opposite.

There main arguments surfaced in a recent academic paper in which four theories were postulated.

1. The **m** and **ms** ratio

This supposes that m is a measure of pleasure or surprise and is relative to an amount of money. See the example below:

Cost of a pitch = £4,500 it follows that £4,500 = **m**

Value of project on offer = £145,000 or **mmmm!**

**Note** 7**ms** = **ooooooh**

2. The pitch yield formula

This is a slightly more complex piece of algebra where:

**a - b = c**

a = number of presentations made by agencies

b = number of proposals accepted by client

c = number of unhappy agencies

**Note** if a = more than 4, and

b = 1, then

c = number of very unhappy agencies

3. The law of second-place probability

This resulted from empirical research undertaken by Stephen Oliver Doward who wanted the law named after him. S. O. Doward discovered that:

number of suppliers in pitch percentage of winning

3 33%

4 25%

5 20% . . . infinity

**However**

number of suppliers in pitch percentage chance of coming second

3 95%

4 95%

5 95% . . . infinity

Notes: Doward reported the phrase 'we really love your ideas but you came second to a company we have used before,' was used in 75% of rejections. The one agency that was told 'we hated your concepts and you came fifth out of five', is now working on PR material for the President of France.

4. The 'new number'

Mathematicians love discoveries and this was a special one. It was noticed that the cost of a pitch was made up of four elements:

cost of pitch = **l** + **m** + **n** + **o**, where

**l** = cost of creative time

**m** = cost of materials

**n** = cost of project management time

**o** = cost of new (little black) number

**Note** It was seen that **o**, the (little black) number, increased in direct proportion to the number of women on the team.

So that proves it then.

1. One of my cover from my Cambridge University Press days. A long time ago.