So, like every other self-respecting modern-day MadMan (and woman), I’ve become totally hooked on AMC’s new show, “The Pitch.” Because who doesn’t like to look at themselves in the mirror while simultaneously being filled with pride and revolted in disgust and self-loathing?
Three episodes in and there are numerous things I have found fascinating about the show. One is how un-fascinating the show is to non-industry people (“Wow…all these people sound boring and I have no idea what they are talking about… kind of like you” – My girlfriend). I’ve been impressed with how well the producers capture a few specific moments, like the excitement around getting the initial brief, the struggle of moving from ideation to execution, the battle between creativity and strategy, and the anticipation of the team walking into the board room for their moment of judgment.
What I’ve been amazed by so far is in the three episodes I’ve seen (I missed the “Mister Sparky one”), the wrong agency has won. Sure, I know this is my opinion and I don’t have the whole story, but based on the tweets of my peers, I don’t think I’m alone here. With the parts of the brief that were seen on air, the agencies that lost absolutely had the best ideas and they delivered the strongest results against the brief. So where’s the disconnect? Am I (and all of these other agencies) that far out of touch with what our clients really need? Why do so many agency people think the wrong agencies were awarded the business?
The answer is presentation. The agencies with the strongest presentation won. This creates a couple of problems…the first of which is that clients need to be able to see through some of the “dog and pony” show (or as we like to say at Definition 6, “the cotton candy and frozen margaritas”) to understand the idea and select the agencies that understand the objectives and the brand the best. I have been confident of the outcome at the end of the presentations, saying to myself, “The winner is obvious…there is no way they can select the other agency,” only to find myself shocked by the moment of truth. Maybe that’s just good editing, but each time the client has said basically the same thing…”The other group really took it farther and thought it through more.” That’s really not a true statement. In each case, the other agency simply did more free work and more spec creative. I would actually say the losing agency thought through the idea more carefully and found more insight and opportunity for the brands. Unfortunately, the time spent developing that insight left less time for the creative executions. That requires more imagination from the client to see the vision.
However, let’s be clear that the reverse is also true – presentation IS important. Conveying an idea or concept that can be digested and understood easily is critical to winning the business. These agencies have done a great job finding insight in the audiences of these brands, but they have failed in gaining insight into their own target audience…the brands themselves. These brands need to not only hear the idea, but see it, feel it, and touch it. A lot is decided in that two hour presentation. Brands need to know that the idea is more than just an idea, and the agency has the ability to execute that idea and make it come to life. To a brand, the ability to execute can be just as important as the idea itself, because the best idea in the world, if poorly executed, still won’t work.
Create that balance between good ideas based on strategy and insight and good execution across a multitude of platforms and tactics…that is what brands want to see and what agencies need to deliver. Now, go make life pop…and don’t be a zAMbie.