With the season one finale in the bag, it seems very unlikely that AMC’s The Pitch will get renewed for another go-around. After all, has a show averaging less than 50,000 viewers 18-49 in its first season ever been brought back for another? Even if you watched the show every week, would you really miss it if it never returned?
Over the past weeks, I’ve posed a multitude of theories for why The Pitch just doesn’t work. Sure, it can be easy to say that advertising’s totally boring to those outside the industry, but haven’t we seen countless shows about other utterly boring occupations somehow take off on cable? Storage Wars, anyone?
If I had to narrow it all down, I would say the show’s biggest problem is that it just didn’t do reality TV right. Reality TV fans want people who are relatable, and showing an ad exec play with his kid for 30 seconds out of an hour-long show isn’t going to cut it for them. It’s just not personal enough to make viewers care about these people and their successes/failures.
Meanwhile, advertising professionals know that when they come to work, especially during a hectic pitch, they have to leave their emotional baggage at the door. Complaining is a sign of weakness, and the more someone bitches and moans about their work, the more they’re hated for bringing down the whole agency. But, this stoic personality that we’re conditioned to have while at the agency just doesn’t work on reality TV. We want to see great work and thinking, while the typical TV viewer wants to see people get emotional. There just wasn’t enough of it on The Pitch to make either type of viewer happy.
But, would AMC go for broke with the season finale of The Pitch, showing that yes, they can in fact turn out compelling storylines, interesting individuals and groundbreaking marketing strategies? It tries, using two foolhardy agency presidents to make or break the case for marketing megalomania. [SPOILERS AHEAD]
At the Carlton hotel in New York, we meet Amanda Altree, senior marketing director of Marriott’s new Autograph Collection line of luxury hotels, which include such famous resorts as the Algonquin in Times Square, Boscolo Palace Roma in Rome, and AC Santo Mauro in Spain. Seated before her are representatives from NY-based agency Bandujo (who have done work for Chase, the NY Dept. of Health and Conde Nast) and Seattle-based agency Jones Advertising (who have done work for Milk, PetSmart, and the Seattle Seahawks), each vying to become the Autograph Collection’s AOR (a term the show has waited until now to define for some reason). The creative brief asks the agencies to come up with a campaign to introduce the Autograph Collection to an international audience. In other words: this account is probably worth some serious cash.
In New York, we meet Jose Bandujo, a marketing perfectionist who worked on the client side at AT&T before starting his own agency. His employees speak emphatically about Bandujo’s tendency to tear apart their work, saying, “He’s advertising’s harshest critic.”
Bandujo’s dedication to strategy above all else keeps his agency on its toes, saying when presented an idea that features hotel keys that the winning concept is “only going to make a splash if this ad doesn’t look like a hotel ad.” When one art director presents a mock-up called “Sex Curated,” which makes it seem as though the Autograph Collection is a collection of high-end brothels, Bandujo rightly gets quite upset. It’s also pretty funny when you consider that the preceding episode of Mad Men featured not one but TWO surreptitious sexual encounters of infidelity in hotels. To help get his struggling agency a tangible idea, he ambushes yuppie dinner guests at his house and turns them into a mini-focus group. It was like a wonderfully deceptive page out of the Pampered Chef sales guide.
Finally, a copywriter introduces an idea to Bandujo that has some legs, “Make Some.” Make some what? “Make some fire” at your hotel’s kitchen, make some noise at a local cabaret. “Our traveler really wants to be part of the scene and part of the experience,” Bandujo says, and though he rightly accuses the creative of looking pretty generic (it looks like a tourist pamphlet), his agency goes forward with the idea.
Meanwhile, Mark Jones of Jones advertising has an idea in the works directly after the pitch. Seemingly ignoring all other creative input from his agency, Jones’ wants his campaign to tell the story about a man meeting a mysterious woman at one of the Autograph Collection’s hotels.
Jones’ partner, David Edgerton, nervously stares into the camera during Jones’ work on the pitch, saying things like, “We never execute the first idea we come up with,” “Usually, we don’t put this much money into a pitch,” and, “I’m a little concerned about Mark.” In other words, there’s nothing anyone can do to stop Jones, which is very disconcerting when you realize that Jones is actually hiring an entire production team to shoot a TV spot for Marriott (which he is directing). Yes, this is a very, very expensive mistake, and Jones’ lack of experience behind the camera shows immediately when even the actor says that dramatically dropping a martini glass “felt forced.”
As we watch Jones’ team edit the spot, which depicts an actor chasing a mystery woman around a luxury hotel in Seattle, the exec proudly declares, “I’m absolutely certain that we’ve put more work into this (than the other agency).” There’s no arguing that, and luckily when he pitches his idea under the concept “The Red Pen,” Jones luckily has an alternative campaign called “Stay Independent” that hits a hip, young traveler target demographic. After earning some good will for “Stay Independent,” Jones introduces “The Red Pen” which ends with the tagline “Every autograph tells a story.” Despite being delightfully silly, the client nods and smiles approvingly.
Meanwhile, Bandujo and company start out their pitch with what’s shown to be a long, tireless play-by-play solution to improving the Autograph Collection’s current website and Facebook page. Even though they look quite perturbed, the client says, “Thanks for offering some solutions.” Then, Bandudo shows the client a video his agency made of “Make Some,” which splices together action imagery covered by a giant typeface that reads “MAKE SOME TRACKS. MAKE SOME ART. MAKE SOME SPARKS.” It’s quite loud and jarring, a looks like a bumper that would run on MTV in the late 90s.
And now, your verdict:
Yes, it looks like Jones’ expensive, highly-produced gamble didn’t pay off. The client even told Jones that his campaign looked “expected,” which is probably the last thing you want to hear after blowing tens of thousands of dollars on producing a spec TV spot. Generic, thy name is “mystery woman slinking away furtively in a fancy hotel.”
On the other hand, apparently telling a potential client why their website sucks is a smart bet for winning your agency some business. But, seriously, Bandujo gave us proof for why giving the client exactly what they want works almost every time. If there’s anything that the casual viewer should learn about advertising from this season of The Pitch, it might as well be that, with a side lesson of “It’s really easy to overspend on a pitch. Don’t do it.”
- Even if you missed the episode, you can still see Jones’ expensive spec spot for the Autograph Collection on their website here.
- At the end of the episode, AMC mentioned that the show was filmed over a six-month period and captured over 2800 hours of footage. They even included a note saying that obviously, the show couldn’t fit close to anything in the eight broadcasted episodes. It almost felt like an apology.
- What was your favorite episode of the show? Personally, I’m still going with episode two, if only because SK+G’s Ray Johnson was the most cartoonish villain on the show. If only he could’ve made a cameo on every episode.
- What was your favorite campaign from season one? I’m voting for WDCW’s losing “ZAMbies” work for Subway in episode one.
- How many of these eight episodes did you end up watching?
As always, leave your comments below. Thanks for tuning into our coverage this season. Though these epic recaps were a pain in the ass to write, I definitely had fun writing them!