Pitch this

Have you had an opportunity to watch 'The Pitch' on AMC? For those of you not in the know, it's Advertising.yet another artificial reality TV show. In this case, though, the plot revolves around two real-world advertising agencies pitching a living, breathing client.

But, after that, all semblance of reality checks out faster than the average viewer of a Madison Avenue-produced commercial.

To begin with, the client, Subway, provides a simultaneous briefing to both agencies who are sharing the same conference room. That never happens. Not only are agencies kept apart from one another, it's sometimes harder than pulling teeth to get a prospect to even tell you who your competition is.

After the Subway briefing, we follow the two firms back to their respective headquarters as they sweat bullets to turn around campaign ideas in one week's time. Instead of displaying the strategy and depth of thinking one would expect from each ad agency we see, instead, a bunch of nonsensical, superficial ideas and tons of internecine backbiting.

The winning campaign is actually laughably bad in terms of originality, messaging and credibility. Critically, although each agency's assignment had been to help Subway reach the 18-to-24 year old breakfast buyer, we see no attempt by either firm to listen to any member of the age cohort. Instead, like all ad agencies do, the two competitors insulated themselves in conference room, batted around ideas and ended up creating three top down, inside out campaigns.

As one copywriter said of one approach, "We can't make this look like a commercial. If we do, the viewer will immediately change channels." Bingo! And, there you have the fundamental reason why advertising is in decline and PR is ascending. Advertising talks at people; PR engages in conversations with them.

The Pitch is just another variation on the now tired reality TV format. I predict it'll last a season, maybe two. But, if AMC wants to capture a real moment about where communications is headed, I suggest they fire the ad agencies and, instead, find some PR firms who are on the cutting edge of where the conversation is headed. Until then, I'm going to follow that copywriter's advice when I next spot The Pitch on TV; I'm going to channel surf. The show is just as artificial as the industry it portrays.

14 thoughts on “Pitch this

  1. It was a classic moment that temporarily stunned Foster. He nonetheless continued to shred Jimmy Huff’s presentation, forcing everyone to work into the late hours to make his changes.

  2. I remember what Jimmy Huff had to go through to help win that business. But I never heard that anecdote about Malcolm. Brilliant!

  3. Absolutely, Julie. That was easily one of the best Mad Men episodes ever. Megan is clearly a superstar in the making, and had to poke and prod the suddenly detached Don to seize the dinner time pitch opportunity (I guess he’s still on love leave, as Burt Cooper said of him). The dopes on AMC’s The Pitch would have been too busy fighting over creative ideas to have even been aware of such an opportunity.

  4. If I ever want to witness a Master Pitch, I’ll continue to watch AMC’s “Mad Men.” In last Sunday’s episode, ad man extraordinaire Don Draper pitched a Hail Mary pass over dessert at a restaurant to a clueless Heinz Beans exec — the night before said exec planned on dumping Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce from the account.
    Draper recognized the opportunity (with the assistance of his savvy wife), tossed aside the formality of presenting the campaign in an office environment, and went for it then and there. And, of course, the client loved it.

  5. Thank you for watching so that we don’t have to.
    I’m having lunch next week with a big agency creative who does those ED ads that air on the 6:30pm news. His perspective ought to be interesting.
    Please don’t put down my Rochester Red Wings — they’re not the Mets. They play their little hearts out and their games are lots more fun to go to than most MLB teams.
    “loosened up the sphincter muscle a bit”….love it! I’m sure you’ll schneider them tonight at the comedy club.

  6. Agreed, Jimbo. The McKinney top dog came across as a true a**hole, while the L.A. creative dude refused to budge from one obviously, absurd creative concept. As you note, the best thing about The Pitch is confirmation that the average ad agency is completely out of touch with where the conversation is headed.

  7. No argument, Bob. That said, Brouillard’s 1994 pitch for the United Technologies account would have made for a riveting reality show. I still remember the look on Malcolm End’s face when Foster tore the presentation to shreds the night before the big pitch. That, in turn, prompted Malcolm to utter his now legendary response, ‘Jim, it’s high-time you loosened up the sphincter muscle a bit.’ One could hear the proverbial pin drop after that exchange.

  8. The not-so-secret about The Pitch is that nearly all the A-level ad agencies refused to participate. So, the average viewer has no clue she isn’t watching the cream of the crop competing for a prime piece of new business. It’s more akin to watching a minor league baseball game between Rochester and Albany.

  9. I saw the episode and it was laughably bad. I couldn’t understand how the two teams were even involved in the pitch and why more than one person even showed up? Besides the presenters (and the rapper, whatever the hell his name is), everyone else was there as “creative eye candy” there for the hello. That’s it. And as you noted the campaigns lacked anything worthwhile.
    I watched from start to finish mainly because of two reasons: 1)further confirmation as to why advertising is a waste, and 2) further confirmation as to how much the competition fighting for these marketing dollars sucks.
    The best part: watching the winning team leader (!!!???) painfully go through his first pitch. That was awesomely painful… I couldn’t turn away.

  10. Thanks Stephanie. Trust me, it’s not a Mob Wives-type of circus sideshow. There are some interesting moments in it. But, it’s clearly staged and, when it comes to authenticity, pales in comparison to Mad Men.

  11. Contrived conflict is the primary ingredient for “reality” TV, Steve. Making solid strategy is visually boring.

  12. I saw the promo for this and thought exactly the same and was waiting for this post.

  13. I’ve never heard of this show, and thank you for warning us about it! If I see it on I might just watch for a bit… I’m kind of a masochist like that