I just watched the sneak preview of ‘The Pitch’ last night on AMC after the critically acclaimed ‘Mad Men.’ ‘The Pitch’ is a reality TV show that records two agencies pitching for new business. The first episode features the client Subway and the agencies WDCW and McKinney as the competing agencies. As a creative, I actually enjoyed the show, but as I did a little research afterward, I was kind of disappointed to see how many agencies turned down the chance to be on the show.
Apparently AMC approached many top agencies that we are all familiar with and, pretty much, they all said ‘no’ to being on the show. In fact, I would say that McKinney is probably the most prominent agency that is appearing in the episodes for this season. Some of the agencies that chose not to participate were Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Mullen, Arnold, Leo Burnett, The Martin Agency, DraftFCB, and many more that we all are very aware of.
The reasons behind not appearing were kind of silly, yet expected. Many didn’t want to reveal any of their secrets of concepting and coming up with great ideas. Others felt that cameras on their creatives 24/7 wouldn’t promote creative behavior. I think most were afraid to show that the way they work is just the same as every other agency and in the end, it’s all about the creatives. And even then, it’s not all about the creatives; in most cases, it's dumb luck at pitching the right idea.
Last night's episode was an interesting look into dumb luck versus creative thinking. While I’ve always admired the McKinney agency and still do, the winning concept that Subway ended up going with was based on a viral video that some creatives saw on YouTube. Their idea, while great, wasn’t original and was literally banking on a new viral video star to win the business. On the other hand, WDCW actually had a unique and creative idea based on how we are all zombies in the morning until we have our breakfast. For me, it’s the coffee that wakes me up, but in this case it was the non-bland and delicious Subway breakfast meals. They even changed up the word "zombies" and created a new word, "zAMbies," which is a play off the morning or the AM hours.
I really don’t know why these other agencies said no, as I think if they did indeed have some "secret sauce" or unbelievable way to build campaigns and strategy, we would have known their secrets from their ex-employees going to new agencies. I actually have a lot of respect for McKinney and WDCW and the other agencies that will be appearing on this show. We all know how difficult it is to pitch new business and how nerve-wracking and stressful it can be, but to have a camera crew follow you throughout the whole process has to be even worse. At the same time, I think it makes great TV and it’s nice to know that most agencies operate in the same way and have the same interesting and sometimes stereotypical characters as other agencies.
Hopefully, unlike other shows that tried to show the inner workings of an agency, this show won’t fail. While the advertising and marketing business isn’t all fun and games all the time, I do think it’s more interesting to watch ad execs than housewives on reality TV.
Aaron Whitaker is a copywriter, blogger, and social media aficionado who likes watching the TV commercials more than the actual shows. He prefers reading the magazine ads over the articles. And you can learn more about him online right here.