On Sunday, the AMC channel previewed its reality series “The Pitch” which follows a couple of smaller advertising agencies (McKinney and WDCW) as they pitch Subway to create a campaign for their breakfast offerings.
I’ve never worked in an advertising agency but I think Mad Men is brilliant, so I tuned in to see these modern day Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryces battle it out for marketing supremacy. My lofty expectations came back down to Earth in a hurry.
What struck me was how pedestrian the ideas were (with one notable exception). They interviewed copywriters in their mid-twenties who talked about themselves as if they were second coming, then cut to them briefing embarrassingly milk toast ideas. The final pitches were a little awkward, and while the campaigns were slick looking they were a bit soulless. They were gimmicks that would briefly catch someone’s attention but didn’t offer any compelling reason to eat breakfast at Subway. In the show, someone remarks that one good campaign can make a person’s career – at Subway that campaign obviously was the one centered around Jared Fogle.
(spoiler alert) So, the compelling campaign that won out was a derivation of a popular YouTube clip of a white rapper rapping about pancakes (I guess “Charlie bit my finger” was busy?). And as we all know, the 18-24 year old demographic LOVES white rappers and will eat anything rappers recommend for them (I know this too well from Wiz Kahlifa’s endorsement of brussel sprouts). But in one of the additional videos on the AMC website, Subway CMO Tony Pace admits that the WDCW campaign (zAMbies – a derivation of zombies which was exceptionally presented) was a better campaign. He simply preferred to work with the people at McKinney (and of course any rappers in their employ). So, all things considered relationships won out.
Two takeaways from this:
First, if you ever think that your ideas aren’t good enough or your copy isn’t strong enough watch this show. Fast forward past the people telling you how great they are and you’ll see that there isn’t some magical formula to developing great campaigns. In fact, it seemed at times that they were hell-bent to forge a unique path at the brand’s peril (I thought the copywriter who was indignant that they were being forced to place the product in the commercial with the YouTube rapper was especially funny).
Second – relationships rule everything. So whether it is in social media or when pitching a multimedia campaign, it is paramount to foster relationships. It’s ironic that Subway would choose a agency based on their good relationship with them only to run a campaign that isn’t relatable to their intended audience, but that’s how it went down.
Point being, the real magic in anything is in the relationship. It’s why social media is still a huge opportunity for small and large businesses alike, it’s how business is conducted, and it’s how mediocre ideas (and people sometimes) get ahead of those with more to offer.