In case you've missed it, The Pitch pits two B-level advertising agencies against one another for a real-world account. But, that's about the only real thing in this reality show gone bad. (Note: You know it's bad when even ad industry experts openly bemoan the show's emphasis on tactical solutions and Kardashian-like melodrama).
One agency, The Ad Store, competed in two separate pitches and lost each. The CEO subsequently decides to pack up his tent, close his shop and relocate to Italy to grow olives with his life partner. (Ugh. As if this plot contrivance hadn't been planned months, if not years, in advance.) Another segment featured Bozell, an agency I thought had disappeared midway through the first Reagan administration (and, their subsequent campaign recommendations certainly reminded me of the 1980s).
Even worse, though, is The pitch's unreal glimpse of reality. To wit:
– The client briefs both agencies in the same conference room at the same time. Sorry, but that never happens.
– The agencies then set up competing creative teams, who present their slogans and taglines to their respective management teams (which are then almost always savaged). I can't speak for ad agency cultures, but a PR firm's senior management would never publicly eviscerate a team member's idea (how'd you like to be remembered as “…that poor McKinney copywriter who was publicly ridiculed on The Pitch?”).
– The agencies never conduct market research. Instead, they either surf the net for ideas or throw a bunch of adjectives on a white board. Even the most mediocre ad agency depends upon research to drive creative, so I don't know why the competing firms agreed to bastardize their processes for TV.
– Two agencies selected rookies to lead the final presentation. One was pinch-hitting for a strategist felled by a gall bladder operation; the other was a former PR pro turned copywriter. Fact: No agency allows a rookie to lead a major pitch. On the contrary, most firms trot out their resident superstars for the occasion (which, in the case of holding companies, means prospects get to meet former White House press secretaries, an erstwhile secretary of Health, Education & Welfare or two and maybe, just maybe, a disgraced Congressman).
– Last, but not least, the back-stabbing and one-upmanship displayed at each competing agency would make even Shakespeare grimace. I seriously doubt such histrionics exist. Like everything else, they were manufactured for the program.
In short, The Pitch is an embarrassment. It's an embarrassment for the agencies involved and the profession as a whole. That said, it's the single best ad I've ever seen for PR.