The Pitch Season 2, Episode 1. Hunks Get Screwed.
You know, I said I wasn’t going to watch this season of The Pitch. Last season infuriated me to the point of bursting a blood vessel or two.
But I’m an ad freak. I love the business, and I love watching reality shows about the business. Even if they illustrate how completely fucked up this industry is.
Oh, there are huge spoilers in this by the way. If you haven’t seen it yet, bookmark this page for that moment immediately after watching it, when you feel the need to vent. You will be happy you did.
So, the season two opener kicks of with two agencies competing for the business of College Hunks Hauling Junk. You’ve seen the vans. You know the name. It seems like a decent account to win. After all, they clearly have something of a sense of humor, judging by the name.
The two agencies that came into the arena couldn’t have been further apart. Fletcher Rowley, an agency of stiff douchebags with mainly political clients on their roster. They’ve won 32 Pollie awards for their muckraking shit that gives advertising a really bad name. And Breen*Smith, laid back creative folks with a decent portfolio and a good attitude.
Hang on Felix…we’re not even a few minutes into the episode and you’ve already made that conclusion.
And I’m sure most people did, when they saw Bill Fletcher, the George Lucas lookalike, getting his hair cut whilst reading Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War.”
Give. Me. A. Fucking. Break.
This was about as spontaneous as one of his political clients kissing babies and wearing the USA flag pin. He instantly branded himself as a complete dickhead in one second. Nicely done. And then his protégé, John Rowley, showed his true colors by saying he still obsesses about a game he lost over twenty years ago.
Now there’s a man who has his priorities right. Oh, and if first impressions count in this business, you may consider getting the haircut, John. Holy shit.
Anyway, the other guys from Breen*Smith were humble, self-effacing and likeable. Based on last year’s winners, I figured these guys had no chance. I already wanted them to snag it.
They get the pitch from the College Hunks execs, which is basically a blank sheet of paper. But as soon as they leave the building Bill Fletcher is on the phone, his pompous bullshit already oozing out of every pore. He wants to know everything about the competitor agency, down to what they ate for breakfast.
For fuck’s sake! Why, Bill? Why?
This isn’t political advertising. You can’t smear them and win. Your obsession with Sun Tzu is completely irrelevant here. In fact, I’ll ask you right here, just in case you’re reading this…what did learning everything about Breen*Smith accomplish for you? What nuggets did you glean than helped you pull together a campaign for College Hunks?
The answer, I’m sure, is absolutely fucking zero. You cannot produce a great campaign by focusing on your pitch competitors. You need to focus on…the client. I know, weird right? You’re usually so obsessed with digging dirt on your opponents that you forgot the basic number one rule of a pitch – know your client and the product or service.
Breen*Smith, on the other hand, were not digging into Fletcher Rowley. They would have shit themselves laughing (or maybe crying) if they had. Instead, they were more interested in going back to the client to get answers to new questions.
Yes. Smart. Get those questions now, before you dive into a pitch campaign, not later when you’ll have to dump half the work.
We go back to Fletcher Rowley to see they have decided to completely flush the College Hunks name down the shitter. Yeah, they only built a massive business from that name. It has great brand equity. We don’t need that. Let’s rename it something cool like, oh, “Heroic Movers and Haulers.” The tagline “With Great Movers Comes Great Responsibility” was just as lame. In one fell swoop, they dumped years of brand building and replaced it with something completely amateurish. It looked like student work.
Wanting to sound cerebral, Fletcher started quoting Greek mythology – the word hero works across every continent. This guy could bottle his smugness and sell it in Target.
Breen*Smith were throwing out lines like “Hunks holding your package,” They wanted to keep the equity College Hunks had built, and move forward. The right move.
Then we go back to Fletcher to see that he’s brought in a focus group. At this point, I was convinced this was some kind of Candid Camera stunt. No ad agency is this pathetic. You don’t base your entire pitch on the musings of a few housewives from down the road. Christ, they all said Hunks was off-putting. This is the name that built an empire, how fucking bad can it be?! If Steve Jobs had put the iPad in front of these women, Apple would had shelved it. Which is why he didn’t.
So, long story a little bit shorter, pitch time comes. The night before, Fletcher and Rowley are drinking and talking about Sun Tzu again. Give me strength. They stated they were unbeatable. I forget which part of “The Art of War” says you should embrace hubris. Oh, it never did. If he’d ever shown up, these guys would be too busy blowing him to realize he was berating their entire raison d’etre.
The two agencies have to pitch in front of each other, which is the first time I’ve seen that. Hopefully, the last. Personally, I would have declined, and asked to pitch separately. It’s best all around. But they obliged, and both agencies presented pretty fucking awful work. I already knew I hated the Heroic stuff, but Breen*Smith’s “Hunks & a Dolly” throwback to World War 2 poster campaigns was dire. The College Hunks team looked underwhelmed to say the least.
In the end Breen*Smith won, but really, there were no winners. Only losers, the biggest being College Hunks. They probably didn’t want to choose either agency, but went with Breen*Smith because at least they didn’t shit all over the brand equity.
It was good to see the Fletcher Rowley shits run back to their political muckraking HQ, trying to convince themselves the College Hunks just weren’t ready for their bold strategy.
If this is the kind of work we can expect from this season, I pity the clients. Did you see the episode? Am I off base? Fire away, you magnificent fuckers.
There will be more analysis of Episode 2 next week.
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.