We had high hopes for the AMC series “The Pitch” when it debuted last year. We thought we’d try our hand at a little social media leverage by previewing each episode- with predictions, analyze the client, the agencies, and then do a post show discussion video review. It took up time- it generated some traffic, we made a few connections with some cool people like Mark DiMassimo of DIGO- but, overall, we were highly disappointed with the show and the manipulative editing- and the insanity of the short pitch process. Turns out, the agencies that participated last year didn’t want anything to do with it this year- and for good reason, most of the clients weren’t sophisticated enough to either have a good brief- or the good sense that this is nothing other than an expensive PR stunt- that was watched by a very small audience.
Our recommendations to improve the show included having someone – preferably an outsized ad personality like Jerry Della Femina, as a host- who would work with the client to help guide the process, and provide some consistency from episode to episode. Studio Lambert apparently didn’t change anything- only this time, there isn’t an agency on the roster that we’ve heard of. Last year, they had Wong/Doody now known as WC/CW, BooneOakley, DIGO and the AdStore (2x) – which gave the show a little credibility. Here is the PR from AMC- but, we decided to make the post useful- by adding links- so you can investigate each on your own:
Season 2 consists of eight one-hour episodes and is premiering Thu., Aug. 15 at 10/9c.
The Ad Age article talks about how many big agencies and networks turned down the offer to be on the show. They say “The most recognizable on the list is Commonground, a gold winner in Ad Age’s Small Agency of the Year competition last year” but, I guess that being a gold winner in their competition is like winning a local ADDY- it means something to the shop and the client- but not anyone else (we’ve won our share).
If we had a ton of time, we’d try to figure out what the annual marketing budgets were for each of these clients- our guess is that 1-800 Flowers and Little Caesars lead the pack and “College Hunks Hauling Junk” are one step above flyers at Kinko’s.
It would also seem that agencies that focus on multi-cultural got a little more representation this season, maybe thanks to the spot that Muse Communications did called “White Space.” Not that advertising is any less of a “Caucasian occasion” for most of the industry.
It seems like the show also avoided filming in NYC, probably because of the higher costs. Chicago, Nashville, LA for this season. As soon as we find the matchups and the episode numbers we’ll post.
For this discussion of the season finale (and maybe the final show, since the ratings were horrible) we invited one of our friends to sit in. Larry C. Price is a 2x Pulitzer Prize winning photographer and our go to guy when it comes to world travel (although he often ends up living in places most of us wouldn’t go even if we were paid to go there).
The client, The Autograph Collection by Marriott should have been one of the simpler challenges on the show. Marriott is a well known hospitality brand and the Autograph Collection is a their entry into the 4 and 5 star luxury boutique hotel market. The client asked for an awareness campaign that ideally works globally.
In our predictions post, we chose Bandujo, based purely on what we saw on their site. As usual, we never trust the editing by Studio Lambert to give us enough insight to really understand the strategy and development of the pitch, nor do we accept that what we saw was all that was presented. Luckily, Bundujo was better prepared than most of the other agencies who’ve come before and posted a complete synopsis of the work they presented (Bozell did the same from episode 6, WCDW did a bit from Episode 1).
We’ve seen an agency chief try the hail Mary concept delivery before when Conversation’s leader gave his my way or the highway “the worlds longest viral video” solution for PopChips. We thought that idea sucked (as did some of his staff), but the client bought it. Clients seem to like to see fully finished “turnkey” pitches on this show, which says more about the clients level of savvy. This time, Jones Advertising went over the top with hiring a film crew to produce his spec spot on an idea he came up with right after the brief- without consulting his creative team. It was an expensive lesson in humility when the client wrote off his brilliance as tired and predictable. We also learned that he was in over his head- as he was caught on camera getting schooled by the production people he hired. In the actual pitch, we got a hint of a secondary campaign “Stay Independent” which from an initial reaction was more on target, but could be an issue for Marriott as the brands owner which isn’t “independent” and as people pointed out on twitter- Stay You is the new Holiday Inn campaign). Although both agency owners thought so much of themselves that they named their shops after themselves (it’s amazing how many “brand builders” are this shallow) clients aren’t hiring one person, they are hiring a complete team of people. Why have a team if you don’t use them?
Jose Bandujo takes pride in coming from the client side and treating his staff as his clients. While it may work for his shop, we’ve always preferred a collaborative leader than an autocratic one. Critique is fine, but bring something back to the table. And while it may make for cute TV, inviting your friends over for brunch and talking to them while cameras roll is not a focus group. The “Make Some _________” campaign really didn’t tie back to either the luxury or the uniqueness of the brand, but given the choice between the heavy handed, over produced Jones Advertising epic spot, this campaign started to look good. We believe it’s great to show your clients or even potential clients, what’s wrong with their current site, but, doing it on national TV probably wasn’t the smartest move. What’s more amazing is that this critique was coming from the shop that doesn’t even maintain a twitter account.
In our discussion we kept coming back to something that Mark Jones said while sitting in the lobby of the Carlton- that all of these hotels not only are very photogenic, they all have a deeper story. Had he realized that these boutique hotels are usually driven by history or the vision of a impresario hotelier- and worked the stories into a campaign along with stunning imagery, he might have won. One of the interesting things about hotel advertising, is that despite the room is where you spend your time as a guest, the outside of the hotel has been the focus of print ads for hotels for good reason. Consumers buy the magic of the packaging- not always the product inside.
The reason these hotels have joined the Autograph Collection is to add marketing reach, booking tools, rewards points- which is easy for Marriott to provide, but this assignment is about adding value to the collection. Marriott is already a trusted brand, how will the campaign for these specialty hotels add mystique, lust and prestige to the consumers triggers when picking a place to stay? We didn’t think the “Make Some ______” gave the emotional cues needed to convey the one-of-a-kind brand experience that the customer is looking for.
Once again to improve this show we need, more than a week, more than two agencies and a search consultant to make sure the agencies have the tools to tackle the assignment effectively and make the show a better representation of how real advertising is done.
This will be it for our reviews of TV shows, but if you are holding a review to pick your agency of record, we’d love to talk to you. However, we won’t engage in an unpaid pitch, we value our intellectual capital more than the agencies we’ve seen on the show. Review our work, consider the budgets we were working with and stop in and meet the people you’ll be working with. Are we the kind of people you want to work with? Do you like the way we analyze your business problem? You’ve got 8 episodes of us discussing pitches to judge us by. You decide.
Thanks to all who’ve visited and connected with us. Special thanks to new friends, Steven Crutchfield and Paul Cappelli from The Ad Store and Mark DiMassimo from DIGO Brands, it’s been a pleasure getting to know you. Please consider following us on Twitter @thenextwave
UPDATE: Here is the extended podcast of our discussion.
Our last prediction post. One more episode to go, at least until season 2 (just kidding). We may be the minority here, but we have stuck with this show for its entirety. For those keeping tabs, we have been 2 for 7 with our predictions.
Onto our analysis – the final episode features Bandujo Advertising (?not on Twitter?) and Jones Advertising@jonesads competing for Marriott’s Autograph Collection. The Autograph Collection is one of the biggest accounts on the show:
The Autograph Collection is a remarkable group of upper upscale and luxury independent hotels. These iconic properties are located in dynamic gateway cities and preferred destinations worldwide. Each one is unique, one of a kind and with its own distinct perspective.
There’s only thirty-four of these boutique hotels in the hippest cities across the globe. According to the teaser, the brief is to build awareness for the Autograph Collection. Marriott has been expanding this relatively new luxury line of hotels (started in 2010) by acquisition or marketing agreements of designer hotels across the globe. They hope to have 60 by years end. The room rates are generally premium and a big part of Marriott’s rewards program. Marriott is attracting hotel owners to join in this nameplate by not enforcing strict brand rules- allowing local hotelier visionaries to have access to an international marketing and booking system, while keeping their unique character intact.
From watching the teaser, not that we trust any of the editing of the show or the teasers, this episode looks to have a lot of drama. In our office, we consider drama to be the enemy of creativity, so don’t expect brilliance from either shop in the whirlwind 1 week prep time frame.
Reviewing each agency’s website, they both have plugs for The Pitch. Bandujo features it prominently on the top of their site while Jones has a subtle post about it in their news section. Jones appears to focus on video and production in their portfolio and with a lot of Seattle based clients. They have an adorable ad for PetSmart. Bandujo draws New York-based companies, and have a few public service announcement ads that are shockinglyeffective.
Neither agency seems to be particularly web-savvy on their own, with little searchable content. Jones has a twitter account that’s been mostly ignored, Bandujo doesn’t seem to have one at all. Budujo has two “partner” firms- one a digital shop and the other is an interior designer which is a bit different, but may help with hooking into the hoteliers. They’ve also done work for Conde Naste- and Disney Vacation club, hinting at a bit more hospitality/lifestyle awareness.
Would either of these agencies be first choice of a luxury hotel brand? Probably not. DIGO from episode 7 had worked with Hard Rock, and there were probably other agencies that I’d trust more from the series with this account. McKinney had Audi for a few years, The Ad Store’s Paul Cappelli is pretty worldly and did well on his two appearances to those of us in the industry. As we’ve said all along, a good agency search consultant would be a huge plus to this show, along with giving the agencies a bit more time to develop their pitches.
For our prediction, we’re going to go with Bandujo. From a review of their work they seem to be better suited for Marriott as well as being a NY firm for a client in Bethesda Maryland. That being said, we haven’t had the best record of predicting these episodes.
Considering we actually liked episode 7, here’s to hoping that this final episode is the best one of the season. Look for our post show review to be posted by Tuesday night.
What was billed as the battle of the sexes made for the most interesting, best balanced show so far. For the first time the AMC poll on “who should have won” numbers were close to an even split, and the amount of editing drama was minimal. We’ve come to the absolute conclusion that watching the show actually hurts your odds of picking the winning agency every time due to the editing, but that aside, this show generated some of the most interesting discussion among our team on what went right in this pitch.
The fact that both agencies were based in NYC as well as the client set the stage for what we believe is the most important part in picking an agency: client site visits. Before you ever hire an ad agency, take it upon yourself to drop in and see if it’s the kind of place you’d like to hang out, and are these the people you’d want to work with.
As stated in the show by Vicki Brakl of Womenkind, hiring an agency is a lot like a marriage. Compatibility is key for a lasting productive relationship. C. Wonder CEO Chris Burch has been through selecting an agency before and knew to do this. While the editors didn’t show us much of the visits, we’re pretty sure this was a key part of helping Burch make his decision.
Both agencies trotted out a visual feast for the pitch. Big boards from WomanK!nd (who stressed when they realized some of their boards had the period after the “C” in the client logo- unnecessarily, since when we’re watching the show the client doesn’t always have it either) with the big green doors on one side- and the concepts on the other. DIGO brought print and video and who knows what else. In this case, it wasn’t so much how much you brought- but which agency listened carefully to the brief: a single idea to raise awareness and interest for NEW customers for C. Wonder.
Despite Burch hating the DIGO tagline use of the word “mood”- the idea of a single concept as opposed to a bunch of tactical moves including in-store use of touch screens in the dressing rooms to a crm/loyalty program is what the client said won him over.
We think it probably goes a little deeper. The first strategic fail by WomanK!nd was not having the principals at the brief. This is a CEO who wants to talk to the top of the firm, mano-a-mano and DIGO made the right move sending the named partners to both meetings.
Despite running a womens fashion chain, many viewers pegged Burch as a misogynist and compared him to Donald Trump on Twitter for his direct and forward style. Of course, to New Yorkers, Burch isn’t anything out of the ordinary and both firms probably enjoyed his candid answers and felt his questioning kept them sharp and on task. What was clear was that Burch wasn’t new to the building of a brand; he had already done this for his x-wife’s business, Tory Burch. He was a veteran and while the in store tactics that Womank!nd presented might have been great and impressed viewers, this was a guy who wants to build an empire fast- and as Mark DiMassimo says after getting the brief- “We’re built for this.” DIGO has it all over their site that they want to work with brands that want to grow- and C. Wonder was a nearly perfect fit for their agency.
In our predictions post we picked DIGO to win by a wide margin- but, even after watching we were split on who would win. Both agencies could have done great work for the client, but in the end, it probably came down to the agency that sold itself best to the client got the job.
Final words by Lee Goldstein (the GO of DIGO) were that you were buying the agency and how they thought- not what they came up with in “The Pitch”- and to that, we say “Amen.”
In this episode of The Pitch we have a women’s fashion retailer based in NYC as the client:
C. Wonder is a shopping destination that transports women into a world of luxury and surprises. Created to deliver brightness to every corner of life, C. Wonder offers an entirely new retail experience: clothing, accessories and home decor products of outstanding quality and astonishing value in a setting that excites and inspires.
And two New York agencies battling for the assignment: an innovative, thoughtful disruptive campaign. The client says “I want you to give me what the girl who walks into my store wants” in the preview, which already hints of a confrontational style client.
Fashion is fickle business- that lends itself to bold, stunk driven advertising. Ogilvy famously added intrigue to the Hathaway shirt brand with a guy with an eye-patch, Kenneth Cole and Benneton have both done in your face politically incorrect advertising, Calvin Klein and Abercrombie have both been questioned for taste with campaigns that resembled kiddie porn and George Lois put Tommy Hilfiger on the map by comparing his fashion to the well known greats. Fashion is THE business for agencies that can come up with the so called “big idea” and present it confidently.
In this episode we have WomanKind which we met briefly in Episode 5 for Frangelico when the Ad Store guys went over to visit to test their “sweet spot” concept with women- who quickly told them that it’s a feminine hygiene product. The ECD of the Ad Store is married to the CEO of Womankind. You can follow them on Twitter @womankind A perfectly competent agency, like Muse of the last episode who was just a multi-cultural shop, they wrap their agency as a specialist in advertising to women- a one trick pony. Even their tagline is “profit from the wisdom of women” which should mean they’re great for this assignment- only the client isn’t a woman- it’s a man- Mr. Burch, who doesn’t seem like he’ll be an easy guy to work with.
DIGO Brands is the abbreviation of DiMassimo Goldstein which has been around since 1996. This agency has no problem with ego, their site exudes chutzpa with lines like this:
Growth is driven. Working side-by-side with a who’s who of world-changing entrepreneurs, we’ve learned that driving change is crucial to growth. Those in the driver’s seat at ambitious organizations appreciate our dashboard of growth-driving services. They rely on us to explore and chart new frontiers of technology, media and culture through Brand-Driven Acquisition, Direct and Digital Marketing, Innovation, Product Development, Customer Marketing and Retention, Brand-Driven Conversations.
They quote the magazine “Fast Company” on their home page calling them “One of the foremost world changing agencies” and they, along with Womankind have no problems beating their own drums about being on “The Pitch”- but, these guys give us a bit more than most have with their own opinion of the whole media circus and industry disdain that comes with the show in their post about the show which is worth reading. They’ve climbed a bit on the fame ladder with their “Tappening” campaign- to make consumers think twice about drinking bottled water. Looking though their client list/work– we spot some campaigns we’ve seen and lots of clients we know. In the battle of the agencies- these guys have done great work for clients that Womankind could only dream about. Comparing portfolios- it’s DIGO is Goliath and Womankind is David- without a slingshot. You can follow Mark DiMassimo as the voice of DIGO @MarkDimassimo on Twitter- or read his blog”@speed blog” http://www.digobrands.com/go/ which currently is throwing 404 errors.
After last weeks first correct prediction we think we’re on a roll- mostly based on the one line out of the preview where Mr. Burch is asking if the creatives are in the pitch conference and it looks like Womankind is at the wrong end of that stare down. Add in that these women don’t seem to have the kind of spines or egos to stand up to Mr. Made In China Burch- which should be no problem for the boys team at DIGO – we’re calling it for DIGO, and it should be by knockout.
JDRF is another string of initials- it’s not even an acronym, since the “Juvenile” part of Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation is no longer even medically relevant. The foundation recognized they needed to change- but instead of a total makeover to something relevant to Type 1 Diabetes- they went the 4 letter route into obscurity. Which is probably why they opted to go on The Pitch- hoping to help fix their awareness problem.
They should have paid attention to the March of Dimes- which originally was the “National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis”- to fight polio. Thankfully, an entertainer coined the phrase “March of Dimes” for their annual walk- a take on the “March of Time” newsreels- and the organization had a new name- since within 30 years, the foundation had whipped Polio- and they moved their mission to birth defects. Read more in this Forbes article.
Note- they didn’t become NFFIP- or some such.
But here we have JDRF asking for a rally cry to help end Type One Diabetes- or at least help people who have it live longer. They’ve been pretty successful, since now a majority of people with Type 1 are adults – since it no longer kills the juveniles off before they became adults.
Had the assignment been to do a rebrand – come up with a new way to communicate the mission, this episode would have probably been a lot more interesting. Of the two agencies, Bozell (not the famous Bozell & Jacobs of NY- but the new Bozell of Omaha) was the bigger agency with the can do attitude, with the exception of Scott, the whiner, head of social something or other. As always, the editors love to create characters out of the contrarians- not that he was entirely wrong, he was just not very participative. Muse on the other hand came out of the brief expecting to fail- or not connect- or not have chemistry which is too bad, because they obviously can do work at a much higher level than what we saw in the show.
Once again we see the more that’s presented, the better the chance at winning. But, this time, as we actually predicted for once, Bozell won and deserved it. Not the “Be the voice of one” was super strong- despite their extensive support materials, but compared to the work Muse presented which looked worse than the local community college design students work. It also failed to respond to the specification of a “rally cry”- people aren’t going to chant “One less prick, One less prick” and have people say- oh, yeah, it’s time to donate to JDRF.
Yes, we know this is TV and people say stupid things on camera, but Jo Muse handed this competition over to Bozell after the brief, convinced that his “multi-cultural” centric firm wouldn’t be able to connect with the client or the target. Had he spent some money on bringing in some free lance creative teams or worked on the campaign more himself- instead of hiring a presentation coach, he may have done better – oh, and not presented a board with bad stock photos and too much type.
We can’t hate on Muse though, they did take this opportunity to send a powerful message to the ad community watching this show or reading about it with their “white space” :30 that they paid to air in select markets- it was right on the money. The only time most advertisers find minorities worth an effort- is if they want their money, not to hire in the field. The spot was clean, simple and powerful- had “one less prick” been that good- they’d have won in a minute.
It was hard discussing this episode because it was so boring, so our video may not be as fun as the others, but we did enjoy having Tonya Lee Carrie Fancher in for the brief- she’s one of our resources when we need to put together street teams or do field marketing in the region.
After this episode, our team wasn’t that excited about episode 7, so we’ve been delayed on the predictions post, but we’ll try to get it up before the show tomorrow.
UPDATE: Here’s the full audio podcast of our review: