I woke up this morning and rushed to the mirror. I needed to know that the facially contorted cringe brought on by watching The Pitch was finally gone.
Regardless of who you think should have been awarded Waste Management’s business, the first two episodes help further the erroneous stereotypes often associated with advertising agencies. Yet, what we’ve seen so far can no more represent our business than Grey’s Anatomy can represent what goes on in all hospitals.
My agency was given the opportunity to appear on The Pitch, but we declined. The main reason is that AMC gets to set the agenda. They pick the scenes showing what needs to be shown in order to attract viewers. Watching our agency do the real advertising work, apart from the drama that is part of any business, would be a little like watching a pipe-fitter weld copper fittings. AMC is no doubt capitalizing on the curiosity about the agency business from the Mad Men craze that they helped to create. Hats off to them for taking advantage of their self- made opportunity. As an antidote to what you may have seen, I’d like to provide an agency opinion from the inside looking out.
l. I’ve yet to run into anyone ballsy enough to say their agency creates the best advertising in the country, “if not the world.” Anyone who does would be immediately pegged as someone who writes copy that is equally hyperbolic and unbelievable.
2. Yes, the agency business, like most businesses, has its fair share of Prima Donnas. But the creative director with glasses from SK&G is definitely part of the .005%. I’ve been in a lot of new business meetings, but I’ve never seen (and still hope I never see) anyone contradict a colleague in front of the prospective client, and to do it with so little regard. I only hope that the client’s comments about this were edited because of the show’s time constraints, and not because little was said about this guy’s behavior and its reflection on the agency culture of SK&G.
3. Yes, many of us take what we do seriously, but not so seriously that we lock people up in their offices disallowing them to go home to check in with their families during new business pitches. At the very least SK&G, have you thought of incorporating conjugal visits during your next pitch?
4. Most CEOs are not empty suits who would rather sell their mother than lose a pitch.
5. There is no crying in advertising (well, yes there is, but before last night I always thought it was done in private).
6. Yes, sometimes new business pitches are nothing more than creative shoot outs. But more often there is a great deal of strategic thinking that is conducted to justify the creative direction. It’s like watching water evaporate. Understandably, AMC doesn’t show this for fear of going down the tubes. But it’s a critical component of what most agencies do.
7. It is rare to have both advertising agencies attend the same input meeting. In this case it is done at the behest of AMC and in consideration for their shooting schedule. Think about it though.. If you were interested in hiring the best people to help change the course of your business, would you invite competing interests in to hear what you want while creating an atmosphere that would disallow important questions?
8. Phrases like “Shut up and get to work,” or any of the many demeaning phrases that were bandied about by both agencies, are more the exception than the rule. At least I certainly hope so. Call me an idealist but I believe the best people in advertising respect and nurture good talent.
9. It’s rare too, after a full-blown presentation taking two non-stop weeks to prepare and a couple of hours to show, that a client would ask the agency, “So, what do you know about our business?”.
10. Clients aren’t always as nice and as respectful as the CEO from WMG was.
Well, I have one of those new business pitches to prepare for today. So I better stop here before I start subtracting too much from the 150% percent of my life that this show suggests I should put into it.
Oh, #11: Lives outside the agency actually contribute to our creative abilities. Don’t get me wrong, new business is activity is extremely important. But advertising is not my life. My life is my life.
P. S. The opinions expressed here are my own. No employees were harmed for disagreeing with them.