The Pitch Recap: The Ad Store and Kovel/Fuller Fight for Frangelico

By Bob Marshall 

Before we dive into episode 5 of AMC’s The Pitch, I’d like to address two articles posted on Ad Age in the last week. The first, by PJA Advertising and Marketing’s CEO, Phil Johnson, seeks to address what he feels is the show’s biggest problem: That it portrays an outdated business model. Johnson argues that the show reduces the advertising industry to a caricature saying, “Senior people fret and worry, while junior teams do all the work. Worse yet, in some cases those junior teams get pitted against each other while those senior people condescendingly dismiss their ideas. Consistently, the client gets the least value from the most experienced and presumably expensive staff.”

Now, I don’t necessarily think that this is a problem with The Pitch. This is a problem with the industry as a whole, and no matter how many agency CEOs mug in front of the camera and talk about how their company’s processes are “different,” you’ll find that their employees say something quite the opposite. Scan our comment section sometime for validation.  Instead, I would argue that The Pitch‘s biggest problem is that it’s mind-numbingly boring for anyone outside of the industry. As my girlfriend said during last night’s episode, “I love reality shows where two teams compete. I mean, I’ll watch and enjoy Storage Wars. But, I can’t watch this.”


The second big problem, of course, is that no one is actually watching The Pitch. Ad Age ran the numbers, and found that a mere 148,000 people in the all-important 18-49 demo watched the show last week. However, due to AMC’s slim amount of original programming, the show will most likely complete its entire eight-episode season instead of getting pulled from the air early. I guess they figure re-running Breaking Bad season four isn’t going to top a regular viewership the size of Joliet, Illinois. So, how is AMC hoping to attract viewers, aside from moving the show’s timeslot so that new episodes air right after Mad Men? Well, why not bring back The Ad Store, the losing agency from just three episodes ago? (Like always, spoilers ahead!)

Yes, NYC-based The Ad Store and Paul Cappelli are back after nearly having to shut down their agency after losing a pitch for Waste Management in episode two. However, instead of having to face the villainous Ray Johnson and SK+G, Capelli and crew are now having a showdown against Culver City, CA-based Kovel/Fuller, an agency which has done work for Time Warner, Pacific Life and The Sizzler.

After some time spent talking about his homemade olive oil, Cappelli flies from Italy to San Francisco, where The Ad Store and Kovel/Fuller are given a creative brief by the marketing team at Campari America. Campari, home of such liquor brands as SKYY Vodka and Wild Turkey Bourbon, told both agencies that they were looking to target 25-44-year-old busy, educated women with a re-branding campaign for Frangelico, an Italian hazelnut liqueur currently imbibed by a much older set. The agencies are told that, while they can’t change Frangelico’s famous bottle design, Campari was open to updating the bottle’s label. Both agencies toast, and the game is afoot.

Back in Culver City, Kovel/Fuller partner and president John Fuller gives us a little insight to how his agency works. It turns out, Fuller says, that he routinely hires people in senior level positions who have had absolutely no prior agency experience.

Now, I have no idea why anyone would make this practice their differentiating factor, but it introduces us to Mary Logue, a copywriter who attends the briefing after being at Kovel/Fuller for only 30 days. Logue, understandably quite nervous considering that this is indeed her first full-time agency gig, is deemed by the partners to be the exact target audience they’re trying to reach. After brainstorming with her art director/partner Rhonda Blackwell, the two women arrive on the tagline “Step into Frangelico,” which has something to do with Italy being turned into a fashionable boot on print ads. Understandably, John Fuller hates this idea, but no more than he hates the concepts that come from a male art and copy team who throw out ideas relating to vacationing in Vegas and injecting the female symbol into artwork.

The two ladies come back with “What We Know,” a concept that plays off of the unspoken knowledge that all women share. Fuller asks for a print ad, which is nearly incomprehensible. Fuller tells the ladies, “If you have to explain what a print ad is, it doesn’t work,” which Logue somehow disagrees with. Again, this makes sense when you consider that this is Logue’s first full-time agency job. After another round of art direction, the ladies present an apparently acceptable-looking banner ad type thing using the “What We Know” concept, which Fuller approves. The other agency partner Lee Kovel tells Logue that they’ve invited her to do the pitch, and she immediately starts nervously freaking out.

Meanwhile, Cappelli and his team at the Ad Store come up with the tagline “Find Your Sweet Spot,” a play on Frangelico’s sweet taste and, of course, the infamous g-spot. It is what it sounds like: an idea with legs that could only originate from an all-male brainstorming session. Cappelli, recognizing that he needs a woman’s perspective, presents the tagline to WOMENKIND, an NY-based female-only marketing agency. They tell Cappelli that, unfortunately, “SweetSpot” is already the name of a women’s personal hygiene line. Well, so much for that idea.

Despite the pitch being a little over a day away and the Ad Store without, Capelli feels confident that he’ll come up with something due to his history of luck. After all, he says, he was supposed to be on Pan Am flight 103, which was bombed over Scotland in 1988 and coincidentally in the news yesterday after the convicted terrorist behind the incident died. After flying in the Ad Store’s female president of the Italian office for some last-minute help, the agency settles on the line “Think Again,” using Frangelico’s label to tell the story of women who seem sweet, but are actually business tycoons.

At the pitch, Cappelli begins by telling the client that they should make the Frangelico bottle see-through, so as not to surprise consumers when they find the liquor is sweet and light instead of syrupy and heavy. Cappelli points out that the bottle looks like Mrs. Butterworth pancake syrup, which the client has no doubt heard time and time again. They’re not too impressed by the idea, and their demeanor doesn’t light up much when the Ad Store uses the label to tell the story of a sweet woman named Molly who is surprisingly a big-shot Wall Street executive. The client commends the Ad Store, but doesn’t seem too enthusiastic.

Logue begins the Kovel/Fuller pitch by accepting a call on her cell phone that goes something like, “Hi. Yeah, does an hour sound good? Great, I’ll meet you then.” She then tells the client that this is an example of women’s secret knowledge or something. She presents the “Women Just Know” campaign by saying, “With just a look, we can have a whole conversation.” The client’s a bit hard to read here, but they look a little more intrigued than they did during the Ad Store’s pitch.

And now, your verdict:

Again, neither agency really wowed viewers with this assignment. “Women Just Know” was definitely the better of the two ideas, but it also used a line that sounds more appropriate for a women’s hygiene product than a liqueur. Its competitor, “Think Again,” again came across as something lacking any sort of real or surprising consumer insight.

While Logue and Kovel/Fuller celebrate, the Ad Store must cope with their second loss on national television. Cappelli says, “This is my last pitch,” and the episode ends with him and his boyfriend flying to Italy to live the rest of their days selling Cappelli’s homemade olive oil. Seriously, the episodes suggests that losing the pitch makes Cappelli give up on his agency and his career. If that’s the case, then wow.

Additional Observations/Insights

  • Despite seeing Cappelli in essence turn his back on advertising, he’s still prominently listed on the Ad Store’s website. Anyone else have any additional info on his current whereabouts?
  • The client suggests that part of the reason they picked Kovel/Fuller was because they showed Campari more complete work. Is the Ad Store’s lack of spec work what’s keeping them down?
  • If you’re interested in learning more about Cappelli’s Italian family, AMC shot some b-roll showcasing them. Watch it here to see Cappelli dump some Frangelico on pancakes.

What were your thoughts, dear readers? Leave your comments below.