June 06, 2012

The Itch To Pitch

My unrelenting commitment to bringing you the finest in firmly-held, ill-informed opinions has lead me down a dangerous path. I have forced myself to watch 3 episodes of The Pitch.

The things I do for you people...

Even though I have a very high opinion of the power of TV advertising, the truth is I almost never watch TV. (And even though I have a very low opinion of the power of web advertising, I am addicted to the web.)

Other bloggers and commentators have been brutal in their reviews of The Pitch. Viewers have expressed their opinions by unanimously staying away (the May 7th episode got a Nielsen rating of 0 -- seriously.) I can see why. But I have actually found it fascinating. The enlightening aspects of the show have been these:
1. The alarmingly high regard that unremarkable agency people have for themselves and their agencies. (One agency head who claimed he did the best advertising anywhere listed GoDaddy as one of his accounts. I rest my case.)
2. The shallowness of the thinking during the creative development process.
3. The inability of clients to recognize good ideas.
In each of the three episodes I watched, the losing agency had a better idea than the winner. In each case, the client was unable to recognize a better idea, and made their judgment on quantity rather than quality. In other words, they selected the agency that had blown their idea out in more directions, rather than the agency that had the better idea.

In no case was there any indication that the agencies gave anything but the most perfunctory attempt to create a coherent strategy. (In fairness, this could simply be a function of the way the editor has chosen to cut the episodes.)

The part that I find most laughable comes at the very beginning of every episode. The head boy at each agency describes how brilliantly unique his agency is -- by utilizing the identical cliches that every other head boy uses.

It's pretty clear that any agency with a sense of pride or self-worth would not participate in this monstrosity of a show. The problem is that the whole ad industry is being represented by these mediocrities.

There are some very smart people in the ad business. It is discouraging that this program has chosen to use -- or has been forced to use -- such unexceptional talent to represent us.

It's a good thing no one's watching.


Chris Seiger said...

I refuse to watch it or give it any recognition at all. Reality television makes fools of its subject matter. When I heard about one in advertising, I knew what was coming. I think we all did. And yes, thank God no one is watching it. I hope it dies an ugly, horrible death sooner than later.

It's hard enough to get good creative talent to choose to go into advertising. If you were a young creative person in the midst of choosing a career path and you say this show, would advertising be on your list?

Methinks not.

Rob Hatfield said...

Well, Bob. At least now I know I'm not going insane. As you point out. Each time the lame idea wins. And the good idea with potential gets dumped.  Yes, the show makes agencies look stupid. But in my book, it's the clients that look like the real fools. I'm not watching it anymore. It's far too horrible...

Kevin Duffy said...

I have a problem with the premise. Pitching is an antiquated process and just bad for business in today's market. Those 15% media commissions just don't exist anymore. No other industry in the world operates on a "pitch" basis. I wrote a post about how our agency will not pitch (at least for free). I'd love to hear other people view on pitching. http://blog.theduffyagency.com/methodical_madness/2012/01/is-it-time-to-pitch-the-pitch.html

Greg Petropoulos said...

True: no plumber will fix your toilet for free in hopes of winning your bathroom remodeling business.  But I don't have a problem with the idea of pitching. It happens all the time. Actors and musicians audition. Athletes and cheerleaders (who--before anyone yells at me--are, indeed, athletes) try out. Lawyers offer free consultations. Artists put their work on walls. The stir fry place at the mall dishes out free samples skewered on toothpicks. Entire cities put together elaborate packages in hopes of hosting big events. People speed date. 

Pitching by any other name is standard operating procedure (or a desperate act to end loneliness).  My problem is with The Pitch as a show. It's vapid, insipid, stupid, maybe even torpid; and it makes my bicuspids hurt. Worse of all, if my mom ever watched it, she'd wonder if her son has become one of these vapid and vacuous ad people who cause so much gnashing and grinding of teeth. 

Call me a romantic, but I need good guys to root for. And in the pilot episode, I didn't see anyone I liked. In fact, after watching it, I liked myself even less. 

Cboak said...

Chris, those places had a lot of cool people walking around with ipads and there were pool tables and lots of techy things and people had tats and earrings and Big IDEAS...what a recruiting poster for the advertising industry.

OK got that off my chest.


However I do think that if The Pitch Process were used in every pitch we would save a lot of time and money. C'mon, how many 3 months lost, weekend busting, vacation crashing pitches have been conducted that produced work that never ever saw the light of day?

StanleyT said...

I'm a design and brand director who ran a design group alongside/within a medium-sized ad agency. Without any sarcasm, I can tell you that what passes as "good" advertising nowadays has been reduced to nothing but stunts and fart jokes. And not original ones either. Most young ad Turks ive seen at a number of large agencies spend hours a day surfing YouTube for so-called ideas. They all have canned ideas and cliches they recycle and fall back on time after time under a deadline. "Hey, if the stunt worked once, why not again?"- this mentality is all too common. Proof? How often can you name the agency by watching the spot, regardless of the client or product?

Sadly, strategy and a rigorous creative process is seen as just a wasteful tool used by dull, navel-gazing designers. And a spec pitch is a more brash way of "battling" for business, instead of selling boring capabilities and strategic thinking.

Maybe ad folks detest this show and are embarrassed by it because it shows more truths about the current ad world than anyone would like to admit. Maybe it's just a cruel mirror.