The Pitch – A Review By The Most Annoyed AdMan In The World
I certainly can’t call myself the most interesting ad man in the world. But then again, neither could half of the “professionals” in the first episode of The Pitch, a new AMC show that delves inside the gritty world of advertising.
Now, before I continue, there are more spoilers in this review than there are spineless wonders in the average account department. There’s just no way around it, folks. To say what has to be said, I have to reveal all.
So if you haven’t seen it yet, don’t read this before you watch the episode below. (If you have seen it, and thought the outcome was well deserved, don’t read this either. Instead, go and work for a crappy client like Subway. You’ll like it better over there.)
OK, so the premise of the show is simple enough. Take one big client, put two agencies on the pitch, and give them less than a week to come up with brilliance. (We’ll get to the “brilliance” in a moment.)
The first episode of The Pitch pits two agencies against each other – McKinney, a mid-sized shop from North Carolina, and WDCW (formerly WongDoody) from Los Angeles. And the massive account they’re pitching for? Subway, the largest fast food chain in the world, with pockets deep enough to match.
The task was one with plenty of meat: aim Subway’s new breakfasts at the 18-24 crowd.
The rotund marketing director from the ‘bway said he wanted something that wasn’t SOS (Same Old Subway). Something big, bold, different, clever, original. You know, the usual manure clients spout before they crap all over your ideas and ask for SOS (Same Old Shit). The two agencies eagerly took notes before running back to the office to be inspired. Tricky, considering they took the brief from a bunch of lifeless corporate yawns in a room that would make an unfinished basement look glamorous.
Now to be fair, the show is somewhat entertaining to anyone in our industry. It can’t help but be involving; we live and breathe this stuff. To others, it’s probably in the same zone as The Apprentice. They don’t really give a shit about the process, they just want to see a train wreck.
Both WDCW and McKinney seem like typical agencies, filled with the usual mix of wannabe rock-star creatives, overdressed account execs, and the owners who jump in at the last minute to fuck things up.
But watching the process, it was clear from the beginning that one agency knew exactly what they were doing, and the other one was flailing around in the deep end. McKinney were way out of their league here.
After some laughable brainstorming sessions from McKinney, two “stellar” ideas rose to the top, much like shit floats in the toilet.
The first, pitched by an annoying drama-queen copywriter with aspirations of mediocrity, revolved around Subway’s sandwiches getting some kind of makeover on a reality talk show. The host is a sandwich. The audience is a sandwich.
Oh God. Shoot me now.
The insipid script was the last nail in that idea’s coffin, with puerile lines like:
“Welcome back to let’s fix breakfast. Today we’re going to make over Jenny’s breakfast. Here’s what Jenny used to eat…”
and (prepare for a douche chill moment)
“Are you ready to see what Jenny’s breakfast looks like now?! GIRL, you are lookin’ flavorized.”
At this point I wanted to crawl in a hole and die. But I was too busy laughing.
The second idea wasn’t an idea at all. The creative team found a video online of some cretin called MacLethal (arghhh) who got 9 million views for rapping about breakfast.
Flash of genius follows – “Hey, he got 9 million views. He’s rapping about breakfast. Young people love rapping. They love breakfast. He’s already popular. HOME RUN!”
Then, they let this chunky Eminem wannabe write the whole song, presumably while they sit and sweat in a corner of the office as they realize one devastating fact: the whole idea was a loser from the beginning, but they sold the fucking thing in.
WDCW, on the other hand, were very different.
They hit on an idea that had legs. In fact, the legs had legs. The basic idea was that we’re all brain-dead zombies in the morning, especially the target audience. As a former 20-year old college student who rarely saw 11am, I know just what they mean.
So, they coined the phrase “zAMbies” and came up with some nice work to go with it. Great images of drooling teens with half-eaten McMuffins hanging out of their gormless mouths. There were some fun, irreverent lines aimed at those morons:
No be zAMbie
Eat this. No feel bad.
And scripts that had some real fun.
“LOOK, talking words.
You breakfast zambie?
You no think about where go breakfast?
Just grab brown circle food because fast?
No be zambie!”
The usual rounds of changes were made internally, then they all hopped on a plane to face the firing squad at Subway.
To say the presentation by McKinney started badly is being kind. It was clear the stupid “Let’s fix breakfast” ideas was falling flat. Nice line, but rotten execution. The crickets and tumbleweeds in the pitch room confirmed my feelings that this was possibly one of the worst ideas in the history of shitty ideas. Subway’s marketing bores couldn’t crack a smile.
Then they brought out the rapping “idea” and it went down well. Not great, but well. Of course, it didn’t hurt that they filmed it in a Subway restaurant. Gotta get the client’s product in. They also brought MacLethal in to do a live freestyle rap. I fastforwarded that part, my brain was hurting.
WDCW went second, with their one solid idea. It killed. Killed. The Subway crowd loved it. And making these hollow vessels laugh is beyond tricky.
The pitch was in the bag for Tracy Wong.
That was until one stereotypical client bitch pipes up about there not being enough product shots in the work. My heart sank. I knew it was all over. I’ve been there. You’ve been there. That small seed of doubt becomes a giant beanstalk of failure.
What followed next, we won’t really know. The hours of debate, butchering ideas and shitting on work, was not shown in the episode. All we saw was Subway’s Mr. Fatman announcing to McKinney that their shitty idea (which was basically “let’s re-do this YouTube video”) had won. They had the account, WDCW’s risk-taking and originality was rewarded with a trip home empty handed.
A crying fucking shame.
And that, ladies and gentleman, is what is so teeth-grindingly annoying about this show. It builds you up and drops you on your ass. And it shows, once again, that clients don’t want what they ask for. They think they want brave, but they don’t. They think they want original, but not even close. They want “safe with a new twist.” I mean seriously, a guy rapping about breakfast? That’s about as cool as those 80s Wendy’s training videos.
What’s even more ironic is that the chubby marketing guy called out WDCW for their former work on Quizno’s, using singing cats. That was, in effect, something “inspired” by online content. I wasn’t keen on it to be honest. But WDCW clearly took that to heart and went completely original. Then Subway hands the account to the dimwits from NC who do exactly the same thing – borrowing from pop culture.
Will I be watching The Pitch again? Yes. Because I’m a real fucking glutton for punishment, and although I know the best work has no chance of winning, I dare to dream that in one of the episodes, justice will be done.
Tracy Wong and team, if you’re reading this, you clearly deserved the win. The online poll they’re doing at AMC also shows a vast majority of people thought you should have won, too. Take heart in that.
McKinney, you lucky fucks, please think about how you can turn your winning turd into something that doesn’t suck.
And Subway. You don’t deserve a good ad agency. You deserve Jared.
Felix is a site contributor, ranter and curmudgeon for The Denver Egotist. He’s been in the ad game a long time, but he’s still young enough to know he doesn’t know everything. He's been known, on occasion, to drink alcohol by the gallon. Do as he says, not as he does.