Thursday, May 10, 2012

AMC's The Pitch: Insight Matters

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.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Wanderlust strikes again

My wife Danielle and I enjoy traveling the world and have done a fair share of it. Because of that, if we don't leave the States for a while I think we begin to get antsy. I guess that's what you call wanderlust.

I'm experiencing that urge to take off now so...we started a blog for when we are traveling and I wanted to share it here. There are a lot of fun stories and pictures...and even some pointers if you plan on traveling to Europe, Thailand or Turkey. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

How Mark Zuckerberg started a revolution

A strange combination of things happened to me this week: I saw The Social Network for the first time and the very next day the protests in Cairo, Egypt escalated to a breaking point. It got me thinking for a couple reasons.
First, my wife and I recently returned from a trip to Cairo in October and we saw just how deplorable the conditions are there. Poverty. Too many people, not enough jobs. Authoritarian rule that smothers public protests. So, I am not surprised by the people’s desire for change.
Then I got to thinking about The Social Network and wondered if that geek from Harvard realized what a powerful tool he was creating at the time. After all, it was his invention (depending on who you believe in the movie) that helped the pro-democracy protesters in Egypt organize and gather against the rule of President Hosni Mubarak. Activists there – and throughout the Arab nations – have used Facebook, Twitter and other social media to rally supporters online, coordinate protests, share tips on how to dodge arrest and deal with tear gas, as well as guidance on what to chant. In fact, one of the driving forces for Egypt’s calls for change was a Facebook group set up by activists enraged by the death of an anti-corruption activist.
Social media has played a remarkable role not only in how Egyptians used it to coordinate the anti-government protests in Cairo, but also in how the world has witnessed, relayed information, and organized around the crisis. Among Egyptian Americans, Facebook has played a big role in organizing solidarity rallies in Los Angeles and other U.S. cities.
It’s called “liberation technology” and it’s powerful. So powerful that the Egyptian government shut down Internet access in the area just hours before the largest planned protests. So powerful that a member of a Facebook group calling for the protests wrote: “This revolution will be called the revolution of the Internet youth. We will take it all the way to the end.”
So, while The Social Network may portray Mark Zuckerberg as an arrogant, ruthless young man who invented Facebook to help his chances with the ladies and allow him to hang out with Harvard’s elite, maybe he wasn’t all that bad. Just ask the thousands fighting for their freedom in Cairo and around the world.