The Pitch Episode 4 – Popchips and Homer Simpson
If you watched the debacle on Sunday night, you may wonder what the fuck Homer Simpson has to do with this. If you didn’t, you’re probably still curious.
As I kiss goodbye to last week’s ill-fated attempt to be PG (fuck, shit, piss, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, tits…making up for lost time) I am starting this one with a reference that I think is perfect. And I rarely think things are perfect, as you know.
So, in an episode of The Simpsons, there’s a competition to make a short film. It’s the Springfield Film Festival. Barney Gumble, the town drunk, creates a searing and insightful look at his life as an alcoholic it’s called Pukahontas. It references Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqati and uses music by Philip Glass. Nice.
Hans Moleman plays his film next. He gets hit in the groin by a football. Homer thinks this is fucking hilarious, and he’s the judge.
As he sums it up, he says, “Hmm...Barney's movie had heart, but ‘Football in the Groin’ had a football in the groin.”
That is the whole process of every Pitch result to date this season. Just replace “football in the groin” with “pretty pictures” or “flashy graphics” and you get the idea.
Now, in true Tarantino style, let me back up and give a brief recap of this week’s train wreck before I finish that thought.
The two agencies this week were BooneOakley and Conversation. The former, you’ve all heard of. Or should have. Small shop, off the wall, they did the YouTube-based agency website that caught the attention of so many people. And doing self-promotion that good is hard. The other agency, who the fuck knows. Although they did say, “We keep our finger on the pulse, and we’re typically the first to utilize new forms of media at that point when they’re just right for a particular consumer segment.”
So basically, they are the first to use new tech when it’s not that new any more. Quite a claim.
This week’s stellar client was Popchips. The Popchips people delivered the brief, and that gave David Oakley the chance to really fucking brown-nose the client. Which worked, much to the chagrin of Frank “what happened to my personality” O’Brien. The brief was simple enough — raise awareness of Popchips using non-traditional media.
Anyone else fucking sick of that? Why don’t they just come out and say, “we’d like to be hugely-successful without spending one red cent on media, thanks.”
Once again, the agencies ran back to their prospective homes to start work. Although BooneOakley suffered an immediate setback when their strategic God, a former Nike wunderkind, developed some nasty gallbladder problem and was hospitalized.
While BooneOakley delivered a very laid back brief, with David looking a bit like a deer in the headlights, Conversation’s O’Brien already had his “idea.”
They were going to create the longest, biggest, viral video ever.
Why? Because Popchips wanted something viral. Brilliant, right? Well, not really. Even the people reporting to O’Brien thought it sucked. So, they did it anyway. And that’s all they did. They came up with a fancy name for it — “The Year of Pop” — but it was all just reverse-engineering into a dumb idea. They programmed code. They spent hours and hours on videos and apps. They blew the shit out of it. Did it matter that the idea was weaker than the jokes on Big Bang Theory? Nope, because the client had asked for a viral video.
BooneOakley definitely struggled. The absence of Greg the strategy god was evident, although it pissed me off to no end when some annoying tart said that creatives don’t think strategically. Speak for your own creatives, every shop I’ve ever worked in demanded strategic thinking. If you didn’t do it, you were out.
Finally, after a lot of bizarre brainstorming ideas, they landed on “Make Life Pop” and everything started coming together. From thousands of balloons falling from the sky, filled with bags of Popchips, to a bubble-wrap race track and bags of chips flying off the shelves, they were turning the brand into something fun. Something that actually made life “pop.” And of course, these ideas had all the elements they needed to go viral, without actually saying “we’re viral, come and be in our viral video, it’s viral!”
The Pitch was upon us, and the AMC editing staff did a grand job of fucking our expectations again. I actually said, out loud (to my wife, who was not really paying attention) “that’s it, BooneOakley did the best presentation, they’re going to lose.”
We saw the Popchips clients smiling as the BooneOakley people rolled out the ideas. They really had grasped every element of the brand. It was fun, likeable and very easy to implement.
Then it was Conversation’s turn. Their presentation had all the verve and energy of a dead llama. The technology fucked up. The videos were met with luke-warm smiles. The end result was less than thrilling.
But before they left, the Conversation people said, and I paraphrase, “this is turnkey. We’ve built this whole thing! It’s ready to go. We did all the technical work for free, on our own time! You can say “hit the button” and you have an instant campaign that cost you fuck all!!!”
It was like someone had hit the jackpot at a casino, and a ton of loose change was thumping against the metal.
Naturally, BooneOakley lost. Of course they did. And why?
Well, remember that Homer Simpson reference at the beginning? It’s all about what a client reacts to, and they do not react well to something with heart. They react to “footballs in the groin.” And for them, that meant they had a completed “viral” video ready to go. It took a greater leap to understand BooneOakley’s work, and it would take a long time to develop and execute.
What they don’t take into account, and they never do, is that the general public does not do what advertisers say. They respond to it, but you have to reward them for their time. BooneOakley’s work would have gone viral, not because it asked you to make it viral, but because it was entertaining and disruptive.
Conversation’s work was an order. “Come on, make this viral video go big.” And your reward? Well, you get to be in it. Wow. I, for one, won’t be getting involved. Fuck them, they can’t tell me what to do. I resent them for it, actually.
You cannot force people to make something go viral. You have to set up the dominoes and hope they fall. If you do it well, the chain reaction will set it off. But if you are as transparent as Conversation’s shitty effort, you’ll stumble at the first hurdle.
Oh, and AMC editors. Are you bribing the clients to pick the crappy work? Or are they all really this dumb? Great work needs great clients, and so far, the clients have been pond slime in suits and ties. Fucking annoying.
Coming next week: another agency will get shat on when a bunch of smarmy fucks over-execute a lame idea and get blown by a clueless client.
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. If he uses the f-bomb from time-to-time, forgive him. Sometimes, when you're ranting, no other word will do. In his spare time, he does not torture small animals. He's been known, on occasion, to drink alcohol by the gallon. Do as he says, not as he does.