Hating on PowerPoint in Adland: Methinks, the agency doth protest too much.

January 18, 2013

Hell’s clicker…

The other day we were preparing for a new client presentation and one of my colleagues suggested we abandon the PowerPoint format we were working on and go with something more organic and less formal, to “stimulate conversation” and “meeting flow.” He thought maybe just a handful of title cards. Someone suggested Prezi. This is not the first time I’ve heard such remarks. Frankly, I hear them all the time. Hating on PowerPoint is commonplace in Adland. We are in the image business and God forbid we come across as process driven or, worse yet, old fashioned.

Being a creative, you’d think I would have wholeheartedly agreed with my colleague. After all, nothing symbolizes corporation and process like rusty, old PowerPoint.

I did not.

I softly suggested that this particular client (and perhaps quite a few others) might actually prefer PPT versus something more organic, artsy or minimalistic. We deal with technology companies. Many are engineers cum marketers. They are comfortable with linear process. They appreciate eye charts. They might actually like PowerPoint. Frankly, most clients are MBA’s. They are left brain thinkers and they might want a beacon to guide them.

Either side. Either way. Used properly and with prudence PPT does the job exceedingly well. Besides, if our content is good, no one will deduct points from us for using it. I wonder if hating on PPT is based on insecurities deeper than a screen? Maybe some of us wonder if our process and methods are old fashioned and thus take it out on the presentation format.

Furthermore, I submit, choosing the new, new thing over PPT (presumably to come off as hip or modern) is a bit like chasing fool’s gold. The latest presentation tool might be attractive but it could also be a glitch-filled nightmare. I recall being trapped by a Prezi that had a mind of its own. The motion graphics took over rendering us powerless to stop it. Not good.

Finally, I also wonder if most people secretly appreciate having something to look at in front of the room. Being an audience is easy. Engaging in meaningful business conversation is not. For one thing, who’s leading the meeting? Get a few Type A’s in the room and control goes to the Alpha. Even more common is the likelihood of someone getting off point. Tangents are great at a dinner party. Less so when you have a hard stop in an hour.

In general, PowerPoint gets a bad rap. It is like a clock face. Old fashioned, sure. Yet utterly and completely functional.


4 Responses to “Hating on PowerPoint in Adland: Methinks, the agency doth protest too much.”

  1. I think the hate is probably just misdirected disdain for a horde of business people that denigrate our profession by suggestion (implied or otherwise) that their storytelling and presentation skills are equal to ours. As a platform, PPT is robust and does it’s job (though, of course, it’s original job was to create actual slides) and does sit on nearly every corporate PC on the planet.

  2. Good point Steffan.

    Powerpoint is a tool. A wildly misunderstood tool. As Bartisan said, it does “sit on nearly every corporate PC on the planet.” and because it’s there everyone thinks they know how to use it.

    For my clients I compare it to having all the tools of a surgeon sitting on their desk. “Sure, you have the tools, but do you have the skills to perform an actual surgery–on your wife/husband/mother? No. So let me help you out.”

    So many people using PPT have never actually learned to “present”. They fall back to dumping everything on a “slide” and “hoping” people will see their point. Then, instead of blaming poor presentation skills and fixing that people blame the tool that was created to help them present more efficiently.

    On the plus side, it’s brought me a lot of business in the last couple of years!

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