The Pitch Lacks The Punch

April 12, 2012

Calexis Launched Breakfast for Subway in 2003

There is a new reality TV series about to begin on AMC showing the inside world of advertising agencies.  It is called “The Pitch.”  The preview aired the other night.  Obviously this show is trying to cash in on the popularity of AMC’s award winning “Mad Men” about agency life in the 1960’s by hoping to show what agency life is like today.

I don’t usually do media reviews, but in this case it’s perfect for me because the premier episode was a pitch by two agencies to Subway Restaurants.  They were asked to come up with a new TV commercial  aimed at 18  to 24-year-olds promoting Subway’s breakfast menu.

Our agency Calexis, worked with Subway for 14 years and we launched Breakfast in Canada, twice.  The menu has changed, but the idea is still to get more people to have breakfast at Subway.

The Pitch uses the reality TV format – two ad agencies fighting it out to win the Subway account by coming up with the best idea for promoting breakfast.  Unfortunately The Pitch is too superficial and lacks pretty much everything that makes reality TV interesting.

Sure there is some conflict, but it is not very dramatic and most of the show is about the struggle to get to the conflict.

The show starts with an assignment from the Subway client, includes a profile of the two agencies and then watches as the agencies develop creative and to make their Pitch.

The two agencies were McKinney from North Carolina and Wong Doody from Los Angeles.  The focus was on the leaders from each of the two pitch teams.

As an agency veteran, I found the show missed the process and focused only on the creative ideas.  It perpetuated the myth that creative comes out of a bunch of randomly generated ideas.  The creative teams demonstrated that well by flinging our dozens of ideas without so much as a single strategy-based comment.

Apparently no research was conducted either.  No one even went into a Subway to eat the breakfast!

And, there was no rationalization of why they chose the particular executional elements for the message they were creating.  It was just a random burst of executional ideas.  I don’t know about other agencies but at Calexis we wouldn’t even think about making a fast food commercial without doing our homework and unless we had all gone to eat the food…Duh!

The hardest part in doing any commercial is not in deciding how to say it (the commercial format) but figuring out what to say (the creative strategy).

There were three campaign ideas presented by the two agencies (spoiler alert!):

  1. Let’s Fix Breakfast where a breakfast sandwich gets a makeover
  2. A Rapper does Freestyle Breakfast
  3. No Be zAMbie, a try for a humourous look at how we are all like zombies in the morning.

The first used talking sandwiches.  One gets a makeover from being a competitive breakfast sandwich to becoming a Subway breakfast sandwich.

The second took advantage of a YouTube rapper’s video that one of the copywriters saw.  The agency basically freelanced the idea out to the amateur rapper who became their idea.

The third, and most original in my judgement, tried to make an analogy between how the target feels in the morning and zombies by called them zAMbies (AM as in morning, get it?).  While this was an original idea compete with nifty zombie-speak, the execution never quite completed the analogy clearly enough for a viewer to immediately understand it.  It was too clever for most and so was left being more cryptic than compelling.

The Subway client chose the Rapper idea.  True it was music and that often wins the day in the Boardroom and clients like the showbiz of delivering the talent right into the meeting.  Kitchy but it worked.  The choice probably says more about a bunch of middle aged clients guessing what will break through to young adults.  But there was little reason given in the show for the arbitrary choice.  The viewers have to guess.

That left The Pitch as a superficial show about the creative development process.  There was a lot of pitching ideas against the wall and little proof or belief that any of them had any punch and would stick.

P.S. The Calexis commercial for Subway Breakfast ran across Canada, parts of the US and in Australia for a couple years.  The basic insight was that mornings suck, but the food’s not bad.  Our theme was Start Fresh. To view our spot, click here  Subway Breakfast (Smiley Guy).

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