On Monday, April 30, AMC network will be airing “The Pitch”. In case you are unfamiliar with it, each episode will show two agencies doing a real pitch for a real account. This week they have been showing the pilot episode as a preview. Much has been written about it and much more will be written.
After seeing it, I understand why many of the major agencies turned the producers down. In some cases it was because they did not want their proprietary processes to become public, but in most cases the agencies who said no did so because they were not interested in anyone seeing how they work. Based on what I saw, that was very smart.
Frankly, I can’t imagine that anyone outside our business would be interested in this program. At least in the pilot, and at least for me, there was no tension, no drama or build up. The truth is that creativity doesn’t lend itself to being shown. In this program, after minimal discussion, each agency all of a sudden had an idea. The editing was done in a way that there was very little evolution of the work. Bing, bang, each agency had a campaign to produce. The show was, for me, flat all the way. And the worst part was that it showed the advertising business in a very poor light.
In the pilot, McKinney was pitching against WDCW (formerly Wong Doody, now Wong Doody Crandall Weiner) for the Subway breakfast business. Both agencies are respected mid-size shops, WDCW in Los Angeles, McKinney in Durham. In an hour program, the client “briefing” was probably two minutes long. The process of development and production was about 50 minutes and the pitch and awarding the account the balance. While there was attention paid to the development of the work, there was no sense of strategy or even thinking. As mentioned, there was no sense of real development or evolution.
While both agencies had creative people attend the briefing, there were no others – no account people, no planners, certainly no media. During development, there was no strategic input – just creative people throwing out ideas. The program does a pretty good job showing brainstorming and ideation. But there was absolutely no discussion about the client, the client’s business, the competition, the target audience. It reminded me of when a bunch of amateurs get together to create advertising – we have seen this often on, say, “The Apprentice”. It seemed to me to be ideas for the sake of the execution with no sense of any of the other elements which are part of good advertising. As a result, the creative people came across as undisciplined, almost hucksters. There was no process for the development and approval of the creative. There was certainly no research or testing. I know that neither of these good agencies work that way, even with short deadlines (in the program, the timing from the briefing to the pitch was four weeks).
In fairness to both agencies, we have no idea how this segment was edited and what may have been cut out. But, clearly, the program is in need of an advertising professional to advise them.
Both McKinney and Wong Doody Crandall Weiner are smart agencies. Unfortunately, they came across poorly. The format of the program seems designed to do that. Neither campaign presented was particularly original, memorable or exciting. The winning campaign was nothing new and not particularly memorable. (Interestingly, there was a Subway commercial in one of the breaks and it had nothing to do with what either agency presented.)
And, on second viewing, the outcome may have been rigged from the beginning. I had a sense, although not really confirmed by the content, that the producers rigged the whole thing by picking the agencies and picking the client. Based on the content of the program, they may have also picked the winning agency.
My bottom line is that this was not a particularly positive portrayal of either agency or of Subway, for that matter. The ad agencies that turned down participation in this series were right to do so.
I would love to hear your opinions before the show starts airing and the real reviews start coming in.