When AMC started airing Mad Men a few years ago, I was ecstatic. Finally, a show about advertising…plus, they constantly swill scotch and smoke heaters. What could be better? I was hooked for the first couple years, watching Don and Roger bickering like an account guy and creative usually do. But then, the show focused too much - in my opinion- on what was going on outside the walls of Sterling Cooper. I grew tired of the storylines about affairs, bad parenting, more affairs and worse parenting. I was also disappointed that it didn't show the work that went into the ideas. Don just magically seemed to pull them from his ass.
Enter The Pitch. AMC's new show that pits two advertising agencies against each other in a battle for new business. Sure, the show has its fair share of dramatic editing with emotional scores and timely cuts - like the leers and laughing from across the table as someone is pitching an idea (I'm sorry but them's fighting words). But as far as the process and getting the work done, it's pretty accurate - from rehearsing your presentation in the mirror to shedding a tear when you win…or when your idea is crushed.
And after the first three episodes I've gleaned a few things from the show [SPOILER ALERT]:
|They should change their agency name to Beanies & Hoodies|
Listen to the client. It seems like Advertising 101, but In the most recent episode The Hive team decided not to listen. Now, I understand the idea of giving the client more than they ask for because they don't always know what they need. But a pitch is no place for that. The client specifically told the agencies they didn't want to take the three brands and make them one. Once The Hive went down the road of combining the three, they were toast. On the other hand, the FKM team understood that sometimes listening means asking the right questions.
Leggo your ego. From the opening scene of episode three, The Hive's CEO was cocky. Saying things like "I have the best team in the country" and "I think we'll have it cracked by the time we land" after the initial briefing. Compare that to FKM's leader who respects the competition, telling his team they are "polished" and "super smart", assuring them that they need to be at the top of their game. Plus, the first half of The Hive's video presentation focused on being Canadian and having a "front-row seat" to watch America grow up. Really, dude? Or should I say, eh?
Insight wins every time. I was shocked to see The Hive actually present the bowling-ball-into-the-toilet idea. I was embarrassed for the beanie-wearing art director when he was presenting the idea to his beanie-wearing partner. But after seeing the clients cringe at the presentation, I just felt bad for him. Well, not really. The money truck idea made no connection with the brand nor the audience, but was rather a gimmick to give away cash. Evidently, they just thought they were going to show up and win.
FKM, on the other hand, went deep, taking away the team's mobile phones and sequestering them for 24 hours to come up with dozens of ideas and insights. OK, maybe that was a little too deep. But they came up with an idea that focused on the customer's pains and spoke to the brands. Another thing that helped FKM was that they were nervous before the presentation. Ask any big-time athlete if they are nervous before a big game and they'll say "yes".
It pays to have great strategy and a passionate account person who gets it. Phillipa reminded me of many of the great AEs I have called teammates.
Most of all, The Pitch made me realize that I sometimes miss agency life and the challenges, pressures and deadlines that come along with pitching new business or creating a new campaign. And every once in a while, pulling a Don Draper.