Perfect Pitch

Marketing agency rescues its meeting and presentation spaces with Savant control and switching.


29 November 2018

Text:/ Christopher Holder

So much depends on the pitch. Dozens of man hours go into a kick-arse marketing campaign but for the client to hit the Go button, the pitch needs to fire imaginations. In other words, tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars can rest on a few short minutes with the client, selling the sizzle of the idea.

DDB is an international player in the supply of marketing services. Its Sydney office has a versatile boardroom cum presentation space. There are two spaces really with an operable wall — handy for meetings, and all-staff town halls where the sliding doors can open up to a larger foyer.

But it’s during the client pitches where the space becomes the company’s nexus point.

The room has to perform.


The trouble is, it didn’t.

Technical gremlins bedevilled the room and the AV systems.

There was a control system in there, installed some years back but the user interface was a litany of the ‘possible’ rather than the ‘desirable’ — nothing intuitive about it.

JFK is an AV integrator with its roots in residential. It has a handful of commercial clients, including DDB. JFK had been working on a number of smaller jobs within the business. DDB finally pulled the trigger on a meeting room AV overhaul. Chris Daley as IT Support Engineer was copping it on a weekly basis.

“Only the week prior to the overhaul we had the audio cut out right in the middle of an important client pitch.”

Chris Daley and the team would be required to sit in on any meeting in an attempt to keep the AV wheels from falling off.

Suffice it to say, the potential for reputation damage was severe.


This wouldn’t be a totally fresh start. JFK’s solution needed to integrate aspects of the current system such as the (more than capable) Cisco VC system and the Bose loudspeakers that had been more recently upgraded. But ultimately the brief to JFK was: ‘make it work’ and ‘make it simple’.

JFK’s boss, Mark Nettleton, had no hesitation in spec’ing a Savant control system. One of the big drawcards of a Savant control system is its ability to run the UI on Apple devices. In fact, JFK counts Apple as a client and had years of experience integrating Savant-based iPad touch control into residential and, increasingly, commercial projects.

“The iOS gesture control is just so familiar to people, and it so intuitive that clients instantly respond. There’s no learning curve,” commented Mark Nettleton.


The UI is a key aspect of the system’s simplicity, but that was just as much about JFK’s ability to listen as Savant’s familiar gesture based control.

Mark Nettleton’s team sat down with the client and observed how the meeting spaces were used day to day.

“After seeing how DDB works in the rooms,” explained Mark Nettleton. “We set about designing a UI that involved the fewest steps required to a) put the rooms into the right configuration for that meeting; and b) choose the source they wanted displayed on the screens. It had to be absolutely foolproof.

“Effectively, the client went from a UI based on how a switching matrix works, to a design based on how the brain works. The difference was night and day.”

Sources include HD presentation video, Cisco C60 VC, Foxtel or free-to-air.

The Savant switching hardware is card based, allowing JFK to select the right combination of input and output cards with a future upgrade as simple as swapping out a card. As it happened, JFK spec’ed 4K compatible cards to be ready for the inevitable arrival of UHD displays.


‘Mission critical’ is a term that’s mostly (and justifiably) reserved for applications where the implications of system failure are dire or even endangering life. It’s not so much of a stretch to describe the AV systems of the DDB meeting rooms as ‘mission critical’. The cracks appearing in the previous AV setup were actively sabotaging DDB’s core business of facilitating clear and inspiring communication. And with blue-chip clients such as VW, McDonald’s, Westpac and Foxtel on the books it was a matter of time before an ‘oopsy’ would turn into a serious loss of business.

The DDB AV presentation systems are no longer a source of embarrassment, quite the contrary, they’re reliable and easily controlled.

“We have confidence in the engineering behind Savant,” remarked Mark Nettleton. “To know that it’s going to be reliable and fit for purpose, and to know it’s flexible enough to fit just about every application. From the client perspective, they only ever see the user interface, and the Savant UI is easy to customise while looking sharp and modern. For a client like DDB, which trades on image and brand integrity, Savant is a particularly good fit.”

Avation (Savant): (07) 5580 3300 or avation.com.au
JFK: (02) 8002 4005 or jfk.com.au


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