‘The Pitch’ Is Back… And It’s Worse Than Ever

September 10, 2013

Logo_of_AMCs_reality_series_The_PitchWith all the great (or even above average) television on the air these days, I’ve vowed to stop watching anything that repeatedly falls to the bottom of my DVR queue. I’ve made some sweeping cuts –- most involving the big networks –- but I can’t seem to shake a few shows that fall into the “bad reality TV” category.

Perhaps the worst is “The Pitch” on AMC. It started out as an intriguing concept. Cameras would follow two ad agencies through every aspect of a new business pitch, from the initial brief until the business was awarded.

There was obvious appeal for someone in the marketing industry. We’d see how different firms approach the creative process and attempt to sell ideas, as well as how prospects evaluate the work.

Season one started out strong. The show had a lead-in from “Mad Men” and the first episode had a pair of well-respected, mid-size shops vying for work from Subway.

Sadly, it’s been downhill from there. And season two, which launched three weeks ago, has not exactly started off with a bang. With the industry’s top agencies unwilling to jump on board, AMC has been left with people who appear a bit desperate and/or mismatched for the work they are pitching.

There was the agency barely hanging on, with the founder living at the office, after previous employees embezzled millions from him. There was the 73-year-old creative guy trying to prove he can still be relevant. There were the 23-year-old youngsters trying to show they belong. There was the firm that specializes in politics pitching the College Hunks Moving Junk brand.

What there hasn’t been is a realistic depiction of an actual pitch (or many breakthrough ideas for that matter). Sure, the basic elements are there, but they’ve been doctored for reality TV. Here are just a few of the issues:

  • It all starts with an initial meeting with both agencies in the room to receive the creative brief. Since neither team wants to ask questions that may help the competition, it quickly turns into an awkward waste of time.
  • Each agency is given one week to turn around its pitch, an artificial constraint that guarantees a serious time crunch. Unfortunately, the unreasonable timeline means the prospect is not getting the best possible work.
  • The show has added a visit from the prospect where the CMO says at the briefing, “I’m going to stop by in two days and I want to see what you’re thinking.” On the surface, this is a great opportunity to further build the relationship and make sure they’re on the right path. But the CMO always mentions how disappointed he/she is if the agency isn’t willing to show some of the creative. And it never goes well when they do. It’s incredibly hard to frame up half-baked ideas and have it come across as genius. Demanding to see a preview after two days is silly.
  • If that wasn’t enough, they have built in a few other shenanigans for season two. In the first episode, the agencies had to pitch with their competition in the room. And each week the two agencies are forced to wait in the lobby while deliberations take place, before they are called in to the conference room to hear the decision. More awkwardness ensues when one group is high-fiving while the other is devastated.
  • Let’s be honest –- the creative process isn’t sexy. It’s hours and hours of grinding, hard work. So the producers needed to add some drama. They got it, but they didn’t get any premiere agencies to play along.

Ultimately, “The Pitch” emphasizes many of the worst aspects of our industry and it makes me more uncomfortable than anything. So, why can’t I stop watching? What about you?