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.
Steven Crutchfield from The Ad Store was nice enough to sit down and answer a few questions for us regarding his agency’s involvement with AMC’s The Pitch. Crutchfield was featured in episode 2 of the show, and will be featured in episode 5 that will be airing Sunday.
How authentic was the show?
Everything you saw was real. Nothing was scripted or staged. The most we’d do anything “staged” was helping the crew get the right kind of exit or entrance shot when we were coming and going from the agency. You know, so they could have one camera inside, then be able to cut to the outside to see us lock up, or what have you. They asked us a bit just to include them in meetings and make sure they were aware if we were having a meeting as to when and where it was so they could be sure to be there. That probably pertains much more to big agencies, but it was still applicable to us as well.
Do the participating ad agencies get compensated for being on the show?
Again, because it is real, the agency is not compensated. They did help cover travel for two people to the Pitch.
How complete was the brief? Was there solid research provided? Were you able to have any choice in the client?
The brief was pretty complete in both of our cases, with the client having provided solid research. You only have about a week, and both agencies are filmed at the same time. You have no say in the client (again, all “real”). The week (which is not normal) is due I’m sure to help with the entertainment value (pressure makes for interesting TV) and cost of production (only have to pay to have crew at some place for a week). And agencies are hardly ever briefed at the same time.
How did the Ad Store end up with 2 episodes?
You’d have to ask the producers why we ended up with two episodes. I’d like to think it was because we were entertaining.
Have you been recognized after being on the show? Has it brought more work to the firm?
We’ve gotten lots of fans from the show. It has been surprising and fun to see so much passion about the idea. It was surprising and fun to see so much passion about the idea. The show hasn’t really changed anything about us. Again, it was a “documentary” really of us. So, for us, nothing’s changed. Hopefully can get some business out of it, but we’ll see.
Do you think this show is helping the advertising profession?
Not sure if the show is helping the advertising field. I think it’s pretty accurate and shows the reality of dealing with an unknown client and frustration that happen along the way. I think for big agencies, the show isn’t such a good idea, and it’s why you don’t see them on the show. It reveals there really is no reason to have so many people on your business. It also reveals that there is no “secret sauce” that agencies claim. It all comes down to who the people are who are working on your business. Their minds, their inspiration and their creativity solving problems for the client. An agency can’t mass produce that sort of thing.
The show hasn’t really changed anything about us. Again, it was a “documentary” really of us. So, for us, nothing’s changed.
For those in the industry, a Liquor account provides the opportunity for advertising in it’s purest form: reinvention of the old into the new and the rejuvenation of stodgy into sexy. It’s also a product where the power of the brand is all consuming; either your customers feel the brand represents them, their image, their personal taste, or not.
Face it, you’re not going to win sales with “It gets you just as drunk for a nickle less.” Liquor is sophisticated, dangerous, alluring and grown up. Lines like “tastes great, less filling” or three frogs saying your company’s name doesn’t necessarily speak to the sleek bohemian crowd who stock their bars with commodity liquors to make mixed drinks. One of the best examples of how an agency took a spirit brand to new levels was Chiat/Day with their game changing campaign for Absolut Vodka, where the bottle became a piece of art and the pinnacle of taste.
All this bar talk ultimately brings us to Frangelico. Their packaging looks like it came out of a 17th century monastery (it’s supposed to) and is flavored with hazelnuts (which came from monks in the North of Italy). This is a product that needs to establish its place in the market and find a new audience, so their PR department chose a hail-mary: “The Pitch” for a paid one hour commercial with drama thrown in. Looking over their existing mediocre ads it’s no surprise they are looking for a new agency. Take a look at this video, for example:
Hazelnut liqueurs aren’t something you buy with the frequency of vodka, rum, beer or wine. They are something special that you typically drink in small quantities or mix into fancy drinks with chocolate swirls and exotic toppings. By Frangelico’s own account, their product is a mixer, one that benefits from being combined with things like coffee. Considering American coffee culture is booming, there is an opportunity to grow the market for Frangelico with young connoisseurs. If only coffee shops and ice cream stores in the US could toss booze into their product lines like in Europe without the license from the State Frangelico would really be in business…
The assignment seems simple enough. The preview video talks about building audience with females, ages 25-44. They’ve named her Molly.
Looking over the sites: Kovel/Fuller has The Pitch all over their site, including two teaser videos.
And one that defies all reason:
As for the Ad Store, we’ve already gotten to know them in episode 2 where they had the right campaign but ended up losing. At the end of that show, they told us that the Ad Store would live to see another day because they’ve landed a big account. Could Frangelico be that account? Our guess is: yes! Paul Cappelli, the ECD of the Ad Store has proven to us that he understands the power of a simple line to sell an idea. Paul lives in the world of the big idea. The Ad Store still hasn’t put “The Pitch” all over their site or wasted energy on self promotion. They appear to get down to business and get the job done.
However, our predictions have gone 0 for 4 on the client picks so far, so if you’re using this to make book then you should probably bet on the other guys.
One thing we can almost guarantee is that this season will be the first and last for “The Pitch” in its current configuration. The formula they are using to edit this program is killing off the audience faster than these pitches that are being produced. Ad Age reports viewership is almost non-existent.
However, we will be watching on Monday morning, and as always we’ll be making a video review. Cheers to the Ad Store, hopefully Frangelico will buy into the big idea people.
“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.
BooneOakley's Staff in Episode 4 of The Pitch on AMC - Image from AMC
The upcoming episode of AMC’s The Pitch features Conversation from New York vs BooneOakley from Charlotte, NC with Popchips as the client. Popchips, who was #4 in Forbes’ Most Promising Companies list, is a snack company that creates “popped” chips rather than fried or baked. They also have some big name investors, such as Ashton Kutcher, Sean “Diddy” Combs, David Ortiz, and Jillian Michaels. Even with these big-time backers, it’s no surprise that Popchips has turned to a reality show for their marketing needs - the company is in need of some positive marketing after Kutcher’s controversial ad involving him dressed up as an Indian named Raj (with full “brownface” makeup).
Taking a look at both agency sites, the differences are vast. BooneOakley takes an oversimplified and quirky approach. The website focuses on their work rather than themselves. In fact, the only self-promotion on the whole site is one short paragraph from the about us page on the site:
BooneOakley, founded in 2000, is an award-winning, globally recognized advertising and digital agency with a client roster that has included HBO, Bojangles’, MTV, State Farm, Ruby Tuesday, CarMax, Mizuno and more. Recent accolades include Ad Age’s “Southeast Small Agency of the Year,” Cannes Gold Cyber Lion, SXSW, Webbys and Clios. We were also featured in “Google Creative Canvas” and The One Show’s “Best of The Digital Decade.”
Conversation’s site is a bit more flashy and much more complex (read: hard to navigate). They give the impression of being the bigger agency with bigger clients. Their team page features quirky photos of the members of the company - something that the previous winners FKM and SK+G both feature on their site (right down to the rollover animation).
As for our prediction of who will be the victor in this episode, we’re putting our money on BooneOakley. Looking at their work, it is all a little off beat and quirky and should fit right in with Popchips marketing style. Another clue is the fact that BooneOakley plugs the show (albeit subtly), where as Conversation doesn’t appear to do so on their blog. Whatever the outcome, this may be the biggest mismatch of the series so far agency wise.