Tuesday, July 26, 2011

We're not that "Mad"

AMC, the network that brought you "MadMen," wants to bring you a more modern view of the craft of advertising this fall with a new show called, "The Pitch."

The basic premise is this. An advertiser – they already have Kodak and Yahoo! signed up – gives two or three real ad agencies a chance to put together a pitch for real project assignment, all while being documented by video crews for the 10 days between the briefing and the pitch. The winning agency gets to execute their campaign and earns the revenue from the project. The losing agencies get nothing.

Not surprisingly, the producers of the show are having trouble getting agencies to participate.

New business pitches have been a part of advertising as long as there's been advertising. Clients are smart enough to know that they own the power in the relationship and often pit agencies against each other to see who has the best ideas, which team has the best chemistry, and who will give it to them cheaper. Even in private, its a grueling and demeaning process.

Aside from the fact that the show is asking the losing agencies to give the client their ideas for free, to commit significant resources to this pitch, and bring an even more unnatural element into an already unnatural process. It also exposes one of the industry's dirty little secrets...

There is no difference between agencies.

Every agency claims to have:
  • A "Proprietary Process" for coming up with great ideas.
  • A model for branding that will reveal your brand's true power.
  • A research methodology that will uncover incredible insights that no other agency can possibly duplicate.
  • A secret algorithm for effective media buying.
  • An integrated system that leverages all campaign elements to maximize impact.
  • A team of all-stars that you won't find anywhere else.
If any agency goes on the show it will make it clear to the world that J. Walter is just like Ogilvy. That Goodby isn't any different from Wieden. That Grey and Strawberry Frog have more in common than their names would suggest. And that would be bad for business.

As a friend of mine used to say as he was ready to jump ship to yet another agency in an effort to forward his career, "Same circus. Different clowns."

Oh, and if the producers are hoping to find alcohol fueled rages, office sex scandals, and a client getting his foot severed by a riding lawn mower, I hate to disappoint them, but that stuff went out with the '60s.

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