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.
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.
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