The upcoming episode of The Pitch features Muse Communications and Bozell as the agencies working on a pitch for client, JDRF that’s used to stand for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation- but they broadened their brand to drop the Juvenile to expand their appeal- and changed their name to the meaningless initials making sure to make the brand meaningless, you can read their excuse for their poor branding on their site.
If the show had viewers, there would probably be some controversy surrounding Muse’s cpot that will appear during the episode to those that watch it over the air on AMC (that means no one watching it on iTunes like us, or on torrents, etc or over on Sky Atlantic where the Brits seem to think the show would be better with brit firms instead of those crass, craftless yanks (from various twitter comments).
The Muse spot is called “White Space”.
The spot points out that, so far, The Pitch has been primarily white people talking to other white people. Read the video description:
As the only diverse-segment agency featured in AMCs “THE PITCH,” the men and women of Muse saw an opportunity to amplify the ongoing conversation about the need for more diversity in the advertising industry.
And here’s what we’re talking about — the excuses, the empty intentions and the quiet arrogance that allows for old white men to sit around a table with young white men and feel that everything is as it should be.
Yes, we have diverse-segment agencies, which come with diverse-segment budgets and diverse-segment control over creative. And despite all the challenges we face, our work continues to shine.
But understand this: Saying you want to do more about diversity is not the same as getting something done.
And we say to those who have the power to change the face of this industry — the time to do what’s right is always right now.
Muse plans to air the ad on TV during the episode on Sunday
An advertising agency that is to be featured on the AMC reality competition series “The Pitch” plans to run a commercial during the episode, but not on behalf of a client.
Rather, the agency, Muse Communications, which is led by an African-American, Jo Muse, will devote the spot to a frank discussion of the subject of diversity in the ad industry.
We hope they got the space cheap, because the ratings are zip.
The Muse About Manifesto
It’s a bold move by Muse to stake a claim about diversity in a show where the “creative” is supposed to be king. How AMC and Studio Lambert feel about this might be interesting, but the reality is the lack of diversity in advertising is our industries dirty little secret. We’re a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business- which is a diversity classification by the Federal Government- which “requires 3% participation” on every government contract- and yet, we’ve only had a few inquiries in over 14 years of being listed on CCR (soon to be SAM)- and oddly enough, one was from Bozell, when they were still in NYC and big. We’re also eligible for SBA HUBzone contracts– an SBA classification for businesses in “Historically Underutilized Business Zones” but it hasn’t generated a contract either.
Could the early release of this spot and the PR around it be an indication that Muse didn’t win? Trying to deflect the reason they lost? At least a few on our staff think maybe, but comparing sites gives us some other insights.
There are differences between Culver City CA based Muse @muse_USA and Bozell of Omaha NE @Bozell. Reviewing their work, Muse has a handful of big-time clients. Their website features a number of big-budget commercials for clients such as Honda and Wells Fargo which feature cutting-edge special effects and camera techniques. They appear to be the larger agency, and they aren’t worried about SEO with their Flash based site. Bozell, based in Omaha now- they bought the brand after one of the major holding companies did their Moby Dick moves and swallowed a Mad Ave stalwart, appears to have smaller clients. One of the most interesting of them is Letter-Photo, a company that lets you create custom framed sayings with sleek black and white photographs. Muse’s work is a bit more refined in execution, but they are also dealing with larger clients with larger budgets. On Twitter, Bozell has been tweeting for a while- Muse seems to have just discovered the twitterverse, not a good sign.
We’re picking Bozell as the winners. We haven’t been right yet, either in our predictions posts or when we stop the show right before “the call”- best indication of who will win is whichever agency has the problems in their presentation in the edit, sends the “rookie” in (ringer or not) or shows the client frowning or not responding. But we don’t feel too bad; judging by the “Who Should Have Won?” Polls on AMC’s website, post-show audiences generally prefer the loser.
We’re now 0 for 5 on picking the “winning agency” on “The Pitch.”
However, the viewer poll agrees with us once again. 61% chose The Ad Store over Kovel/Fuller’s 38% to win the Frangelico account.
If you watch the online “Why they won” segment on the AMC site the Chairman/CEO of Campari America Gerry Ruvo says “we really wanted to work with the company that came with the best creative.” He then went on to say that “We thought that the Ad Store did good strategic work”. At least this time, the client explicitly said that they went with the flashier agency rather than the agency with the best strategy.
The best marketing Frangelico will get out of this show was the show itself. The problem is that the viewership is tiny, and generally the viewers don’t agree with the client choice in any episode. During this episode, Frangelico got exposure tying it in with better known products from Campari America, including SKYY vodka, Wild Turkey and the company namesake Campari.
The reality is, Frangelico is a brand needing a major makeover, not just a campaign. The brief presented here was narrow and limiting to begin with; women aged 25-44, defined by the brand manager as “Molly.” The problem was, the brand manager was defining herself as the ideal target and trusting her judgement on what was best for the brand without listening to the strategy that the Ad Store presented.
Maybe they should be married?
Maura McGinn, the “Global Head of Spirits” for Campari America proved that she was in over her head when she was impressed by the sideshow fake phone call in the presentation which she called “the little gem of a moment, when Mary presented… in the middle of the pitch, Mary pretended to call me” – really? That beat the strategic positioning of Legend, and “Think again” with it’s Renaissance reference as well as the dead on the money realization that your bottle looks like Mrs. Butterworth’s? A simple Google search proves that people were talking about this years ago, including this post from 2009)
Once again, we saw two different agency cultures and approaches. This time, Kovel/Fuller recognized The Ad Store’s Cappelli and Richard Sabean as competent competition and there was a level of respect shown for the opposition. Big egos are the norm in this business, but some are earned while others imagined. Even though many in the business cringed when Cappelli said The Ad Store was the best in the world in Episode 2, most would agree he ate SK+G’s lunch with his brilliant “Trash Can” line and positioning. In this episode he also built a strong strategic foundation for a potentially long running campaign putting Frangelico into a class of its own. Unfortunately, the client just didn’t get it.
It was refreshing to watch The Ad Store go out and informally test and survey women in the target first with Sabean’s wife’s firm “WomanK!nd” (which will be on The Pitch in a future episode) and when Paul and his partner, Steven Crutchfield, were marketing their own products from “Villa Cappelli” in a shop.
Once again, the dramatization and the editing by Studio Lambert was designed to mislead the audience, although from a pure strategic sense we were sure The Ad Store had won, we knew when we saw smiles in the presentation of their pitch that they were doomed. If there were two things we could change about this show, one would be for a pitch consultant to help supervise and the second would be to tell the story like a documentary.
There should also be the very real option to say “no thanks to both agencies” just like in the real world, but in this case, The Ad Store was the better agency for the client once again.
“The Pitch” on AMC is not a show for people in the ad business. It’s bad enough that clients still think it’s ok to ask us for speculative “spec” work- without compensation, but now we’re making a show about this ridiculous process and the clients invariably picks the shop that doesn’t do the best work. Which is exactly where we are once again in episode 4 for Pop Chips- a company that already has put celebrities and bad taste in campaigns ahead of trying to differentiate their product and build awareness.
Instead of asking for a guerrilla campaign that will encourage social media buzz and Word of Mouth- they came right out with “We want a viral campaign.” Choke. Yeah, because everyone who produces a video knows that it’s going to go viral? That’s why KONY2012 servers were crashing left and right. That’s why “Dollar Shave Club” wasn’t able to meet the shipping schedules almost straight off the bat when their video went viral.
You don’t create viral- viral creates itself.
Contender one in this battle is Boone Oakley who have created more than a few viral events and even their own youtube website which had it’s 15 seconds of fame. They seemed to know that you don’t create viral, you create an opportunity for viral to happen. As they tried to solve this problem, they came up with all kinds of things that would give Pop Chips a chance at going viral, or at least, to grow their likeability. The campaign “Make Life Pop” works on more than one level. It talks about their technology (who knew you could pop a potato?) but also about how we can have fun with our product. It had legs. It had a whole world of places they could bring the brand to the public and make it interesting and fun. Boone Oakley should have won this presentation hands down. They were the right people with the right platform. The only thing they missed was someone who could calmly tell the Pop Chips people how this all works- or doesn’t work. That person was probably their account strategist Greg Johnson who used to work for Nike. Unfortunately, Greg was getting his gall bladder yanked out about the time they were making their pitch. Greg might have been the perfect guy to set Pop Chips straight on the need to also include their health benefits in the strategy- because the whole point of Pop Chips is that they aren’t fried- which is unhealthy or baked and inedible. Maybe if Greg had been eating Pop Chips- he’d still have had his gall bladder.
But, that doesn’t seem to be on the Pop Chip’s peoples radar. They like to make noise without substance. They did their Ashton Kucher thing already (see our predictions post).
Then we have “Conversation” – the upstart underdog sweat shop run by a guy who heard “viral video” and was done thinking that night. No creative strategy, no brainstorming, no research, Frank O’Brien had it stuck in his head that the answer was the “world record viral video”- of course, this show was produced before KONY2012 was released, so Frank had no idea that he’d have to top 75 million views of a half hour video in two weeks. Sorry Frank- your “concept” was as lame as the assignment. The team struggled to put lipstick on the pig and came up with “The Year of Pop” to wrap up Frank’s loose ends- and then went and built a shiny new toy for Pop Chips- a website, a mobile app and, oh, btw, be prepared to buy TV, Radio and Outdoor to get your “viral campaign” to work. Ouch. And, how much was this all going to cost? We don’t know- we just know PopChips bought it. Hook, line and stinker.
Here are the “instructions” for the site:
snackers everywhere are uniting through their love of popchips, and we’re loving them back.
join our year of pop: show us yours by adding a video, photo, or message.
we’ll show you ours by giving you something tasty that’s worth remembering.
Wow, forget Occupy Wall Street- snackers everywhere are uniting for the year of pop and they’ll give us something? Hmmmmm.
The numbers say it all. 85% believe Boone Oakley should have won.
Lesson to be learned:
If you are looking to hire an agency, we have determined the best possible tool to assist you in making the right choice isn’t a pitch, or a pitch consultant- it’s an impromptu site visit. Go hang out at the prospective agency HQ and see what kind of people they have working there. See how the work is made. Figure out if these are the people you want to have a long-term relationship with and work closely with. Because when all is said and done, you aren’t buying a campaign, you’re getting married to a creative partner.
We weren’t the only ones who through Boone Oakley were the victors- the AMC poll was running 85% in favor of Boone Oakley over Conversation.
We’re sure Boone Oakley will benefit from being seen on The Pitch. We know that Pop Chips thinks that they got their value out of just being on national TV for an hour. Unfortunately, the people at Conversation and at PopChips can’t keep posting their PopChips rah rah on the year of pop for a whole year, so once we post this, we’ll make sure to add it to the Year of Pop to help out- and then go eat some chips that we know why we buy them- not because we’re uniting through our love of PopChips- which, btw- I’ve never seen in a store- or had a reason to try to buy. And I still don’t know if they actually taste good or are healthier than regular chips- so much for advertising.
We’re giving up on the drama and the editing of “The Pitch” in our discussions now. It’s pretty obvious to us that the editors are more interested in using a formula to build a 42 minute show that builds to a crescendo to “you’re hired” in the style of “The Apprentice,” It’s not the way advertising agencies should or would be picked, because clients can always say, sorry, none of the above and continue their search. That’s probably what Clockwork Home Services should have done here, but didn’t.
In the real world, the client would pick agencies to invite a lot better. They might even hire an “Agency Search Consultant” to help bring a semblance of order to the process and add an outsiders unbiased opinion to the discussions and evaluations of the presentations. That way, the agencies might actually have experience that brings value to the table. In this case- neither agency would make the long list- never mind the short one.
The assignment was the hardest to date. The only people who would think of combining three brands under one umbrella like this and think it would work are MBAs. YUM brands owns Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut and while they may put together franchises in a location- they wouldn’t tie the brand message together in advertising (at least I don’t remember anyone being that stupid- I can see it now, the Col. walking a Chihuahua into a pizza shop…) The three brands: Mr Sparky, Benjamin Franklin and One Hour Heating have about as much in common as the various members of the Village People- and that was supposed to be a joke.
fkm had a secret weapon- the “new girl” – Philippa Campbell, was a ringer they brought in for the show on a short term contract. She’d worked for Goodby and had the right insight to begin with: customers don’t really like calling for service companies when it comes to plumbing, electrical or HVAC repair. How happy are you when your AC doesn’t work, or the toilet’s overflowing. She was probably the only bright spot in this show. Unfortunately, her advice was lost on the sleep deprived minions of fkm when they decided to create “Help +” as the strategy- costing the client extra money for the 30 extra minutes of “free service”- and making that plumber who just showed you his butt crack stick around and try to cut the customers hair… uh-huh.
The Hive did the unthinkable right off the bat, ignored the clients wishes- before they’d earned the respect of the client. It probably killed them, long before the pitch. How the bowling ball toilet ad managed to make it out of concept to presentation was a major suspension of belief, but also, the starting out with the “America’s On Time Hero’s” video with a Canadian flag was epic #fail. It’s never about the agency- it’s about the customers and the client.
We’re afraid that this show is doing more damage to the perception of what an ad agency does than Darrin Stephens did on “Bewitched”- we’re not bumbling fools who strut our ideas like mindless peacocks (at least not the professionals I know), we’re serious business consultants who pull off the magic of advertising- to quote Guy Kawasaki, we’re the plastic surgeons of marketing that take the old and tired products and services and make them appear young, new and attractive.
While we’re pretty sure that the producers and the editors think this formula for presenting “the pitch” as drama is good television, we’re pretty convinced that the only people watching are others advertising pros. Not a bad audience, but one that AMC will alienate pretty quickly if they don’t stop making our craft look like a playground for egomaniacs and children. We’re all hoping they change directions, turning it into more of a documentary, without the added drama, in the style of the brilliant Art & Copy: Inside Advertising’s Creative Revolutionor even Exit Through the Gift Shop
Here is our three minute video review about episode 3- and a 40 minute podcast of the conversation. Note, the podcast will have you in on us guiding our production and trying to make the whole thing come across a little better in the video. We’re still learning how to produce these docu-drama reviews.
[contains spoilers] We here at The Next Wave have our opinions about the second episode of AMC’s The Pitch. While we all look forward to each new episode, we also realize that the reality of advertising and the “made-for-TV” version of it are quite different (as is the case with all reality TV).
This episode features two ad agencies, SK+G from Las Vegas and The Ad Store from New York. They are competing against each other to land Waste Management as a client. You can buy the show or the season on iTunes The Pitch, Season 1 – The Pitch and follow along as we watch 15 agencies work to win 8 accounts (The Ad Store went twice).
We felt that episode 2 was more interesting than the pilot. The “Ah-hah” moment when The Ad Store’s Paul Cappelli came up with the brilliant “Trash Can…” positioning reminded all of us in the biz how great it feels when you get it right and know it.
Of course- when the client falls for dreck from the competition, we can also relate.
We recorded our conversation after the show- and made a podcast and then tried to edit it to 3 minutes to get a feel for what happens with the show. We’d love to hear what you think- and why you agree or disagree with us.
You can listen to full, unedited audio of this discussion here (26 minutes):
What is becoming apparent after two shows is that the clients willing to put their brands up to this are already uncertain with their own marketing. Buying into a one hour “reality TV” stunt will get you an hour in the spot light, but the question that should be asked is who’s watching and if that’s your market. Reaching all the ad pros in America probably isn’t your target market (although if you were an agency pitch consultant it might be good to put your ads on the air).
The agencies are getting exposure that will propel them into their 15 minutes of fame- for some this is good. The twist of coming out on National TV by Cappelli was unexpected- and none of us saw that coming. The bickering between the two SK+G ECD’s was painful to watch. Word online is that Ray Johnson has left Las Vegas for Chicago, although his resume isn’t updated yet. Talking about the miscues of SK+G in this episode would be a rather long post. We’d rather concentrate on the strategic issues that were missed.
The brief from the people at Waste Management was poor. “Making people aware of why we’re different” is unfocused and doesn’t identify which people. Why do they want to “create awareness that Waste Management converts waste into energy” – is it to grow market share, increase recycling? They don’t say what their goals are. The words “viral” and “edgy” should never appear in a brief. The value of Agency Search Consultants is becoming very apparent watching these two clients give their briefs. To give the agency the job to tell the client where they are going isn’t something you do on a first date- it’s something you discuss after you’ve worked together and the agency fully understands the clients DNA and has earned the client’s trust. One week prep is what you do for a fire sale, not a corporate strategy.
We’re not privy to budgets or the resources that the client will make available to the agency, but we felt that the emphasis for a company with an amazing infrastructure of trash trucks, waste containers and employees across the nation was a missed opportunity that neither agency suggested in their presentation.
It’s here where ‘Trash Can…” power this and save the planet etc. became powerful. Not with a guerrilla sign in trash heaps campaign, but printed on every trash can that carries the WM logo. On the sides of their trucks- they have a fleet of roving billboards. Here is a low cost place to start communicating the idea that “Garbageispower.com” which The Ad Store was linking to. This isn’t a campaign where “new media” should be the lead.
The SK+G winning concept of “Waste into WOW!” with it’s reuse of the award winning Reporters without Borders concept of using a QR code and a smart phone to make celebrities??? talk trash? was painfully bad. How much does WM want to spend on print ads – and what celebrities were going to sign up? Trash talking sports stars or trashy d-list celebs?
Ultimately, we believe the wrong agency won, as do other ad pros who’ve weighed in on multiple sites. When we went to vote on the AMC Poll- (which went from almost 65-35 to 60-40 since I first voted) shows that a majority of people who were willing to vote picked the Ad Store as well.
We’re looking forward to the premier episode of “The Pitch” on AMC. Not that we believe that the way the show is cut together really shows how great advertising is done, but because we are students of the craft of advertising and always are interested in the process of creating ads- or even spec work (which we always think is a bad idea).
The pilot episode was a pitch for Subway’s breakfast business, where the brief focused the agency work on the 18-24 crowd. As almost always is the case, the quality of the brief guides the work. How Subway decided that they needed to reach 18-24 year olds to sell more breakfast sandwiches was never substantiated which really should have been the first question the agencies asked.
The two brave agencies that went boldly where the truly huge agencies wouldn’t were McKinney in North Carolina and WDCW from California. Both have a substantial portfolio of work and are proven shops capable of doing great work. Subway’s exec team tipped their hand early, showing disrespect for WDCW’s previous work for Quiznos. Almost predictably, McKinney “won” the piece of business, but considering Subway’s never been known for producing any award winning work, it’s just dollars to the bottom line and a great chance for McKinney to get some self promotion.
Which brings us to the “premier” episode for Waste Management. Without talking trash, this isn’t exactly the kind of account that agencies hope to win Cannes hardware with. The two agencies in round two- SK+G from Las Vegas and The Ad Store from NYC aren’t as well known or respected as the round one agencies by their peers. Spend a little time on their sites and you’ll still not know very much about what makes them tick. You’ll also notice that while SK+G has lots of mentions of “The Pitch” on their site, The Ad Store doesn’t mention a thing. Foreshadowing? We’ll see. Neither site shows much prowess at Web 2.0 or social media, so maybe these are the right agencies to pitch Waste Management, who does mention The Pitch on their site. In fact, you’ll probably learn more about Waste Management on their site than you will about the agencies pitching on theirs.
One always should wonder about these “clients” using “The Pitch” as their hiring vehicle. Who is their current agency? Why are they playing spin the bottle for an agency on national television? It’s our belief and experience that the best advertising comes from long term relationships with clients that work with their agency like a respected partner. This show is about as far away from that as it comes.
We’ll have more on Episode 2 after it airs. Anyone else want to bet on the winner now?