[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?
Fast food is a tough category. While McDonalds obviously has the secret sauce to the number one spot, the actions of number two through five are like watching a three ring circus. Only one can be something for everyone, everyone else, needs to figure out how to be the anti-something for everyone and pick their niche.
Chipotle is the envy of the industry- with a ridiculously low ad budget (they actually dropped from $7.5 million in measured media in 2010 to $5.8 in 2011 according to Ad Age Mar 12, 2012, “Chipotle aims to buck fast-food convention- while it still can“) and a menu that doesn’t change much and a business model that doesn’t rely on “Sales” or price off promotions. Chipotle has a value proposition: a big portion of fresh locally sourced food, that’s made to order in front of you. Subway uses part of the same model and is the number two fast feeder: A custom made sandwich at a reasonable price.
Lately, Burger King has ditched one of the hottest agencies in the country, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, cut ties with CMO Russ Klein (who has bounced back at Arby’s) and gone back on the mission to out-McDonald’s McDonalds:
The restaurant’s menu will include a record 10 new items, among them, made-to-order smoothies and three new salads. Burger King also will increase its marketing efforts, featuring soccer player David Beckham, talk show host Jay Leno, actress Salma Hayek and singer Mary J. Blige in upcoming commercials. The chain plans to send out 40 food trucks across the country to hand out food at events and set up sampling inside some Burger King locations.
The chain is reportedly attempting to broaden its menu with healthier and more snack alternatives in an effort to appeal to mothers, families and Baby Boomers. Burger King and its franchisees will spend an estimated $750 million to revamp stores over the next 12 months.
Burger King built their business on the Whopper- a burger that used to be bigger and tastier than a Big Mac. The company hit pay dirt when they challenged market leader McDonalds with “Have it your way” as a way to differentiate their offering as made to order and fresh- utilizing “Flame broiling” instead of frying- positioning them as the burger kings- in the same way you make a great burger in your back yard. Burger King appealed to some of the same triggers that work for Chipotle and Subway- their food was made more the way you make it at home. Home cooking beats the factory- that was a message and positioning that resonated.
To be the Burger King, all they had to do was make the best burger our there. Now, they are placing bets on salads, frappes, wraps and famous faces. Compare that to upstart chain, Five Guys. The whole business is focused on making burgers and fries. When you order- the cashier calls back the number of patties that need to be on the grill- nothing else. Take out the frying surface and replace it with open flame grilling and they would be the penultimate burger kings.The oversize portions of freshly cut fries as well as the fresh meat burgers make them the new Burger Kings. Advertising is mostly accomplished by word of mouth and the reviews posted around the store remind you that this is the burger joint of old reincarnated. Note- they don’t have a dollar menu, don’t do couponing, no TV ads either. Like the Chipotle model, the entire kitchen and process is on display.
My visit yesterday to Burger King to check out the “new changes” confirmed that BK isn’t the Burger King anymore- despite having cast aluminum burger flippers for door pulls, once I got into the line and watched the digital menu screens show me salads getting the sexy dressing pour and sundaes getting drizzled with chocolate sauce - I almost forgot I was in a burger place. The menu is schizophrenic with “stackers” for a buck- and the next step up is a burger starting at $3+. To confuse matters there are a ton of chicken offerings, salads and who knows what else. No one told me it would be at least three minutes for the “Chicken snack wrap” until after I ordered and the confusion of trying to speed things up by switching, then not switching my chicken for a second stacker reminded me of a three ring circus.
The moral of the story is to be successful, a brand has to know who they are and stick to it. That’s why the new Burger King is obviously Five Guys.
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