Who "won" the first episode of season two of AMC's "The Pitch" depends on whom you ask.
What viewers saw on TV was that Atlanta-based agency Breensmith was chosen by the client, College Hunks Hauling Junks, in the episode that aired last week. But after the cameras rolled, the company went in a different direction.
Competing agency Fletcher Rowley received an email a few days after losing "The Pitch" from one of the partners of College Hunks saying they made a mistake, said Bill Fletcher, partner at the Nashville firm. The agency published a blog post on its site explaining what happened once the cameras were off.
But Breensmith's President Tim Smith said it decided shortly after filming not to work with College Hunks because it didn't have a big enough budget.
In the episode, College Hunk partners Omar Soliman and Nick Friedman were torn over the direction of their business. College Hunks started as a junk-removal company in 2004 and has since expanded into moving services. Mr. Soliman and Mr. Friedman are now trying to decide how to reposition the grown-up company.
Breensmith presented a pitch where they retained the name College Hunks Hauling Junk for the company's hauling business, with a new logo and tagline "Stress Dismissed." For the moving business, the agency pitched the name Hunks & a Dolly, where "Stress-Free Is Guaranteed."
After bringing in focus groups to get feedback on the company's current name, Fletcher Rowley presented a complete overhaul of the brand, introducing the new name Heroic Moving & Hauling. College Hunks were initially unimpressed with the logo, which they said looked like the label on a can of soup. But then Mr. Fletcher showed off a kids' superhero pack the company could give to families who use the service, which included a branded cape and a comic book.
In the episode that aired, College Hunks decided they weren't ready to take "Hunks" out of the name and selected Breensmith. "Nick and Omar decide that rebranding is too big of a decision to make in a one-hour episode, so they select Breensmith as the winning agency due to their unique creativity and entrepreneurial spirit exhibited by the agency," College Hunks said in a statement.
But after filming, Mr. Soliman and Mr. Friedman were still intrigued by the "Heroic brands" recommendation of Fletcher Rowley. "We thought there would be a lot we could do utilizing the 'Heroic' concept even if we didn't change our name, but rather utilize it as a marketing campaign or even a tagline," the partners said.
While College Hunks is not planning a rebranding, they are currently using the site HeroicMovers.com.
"We feel there is unlocked potential to the Heroic element of our brand and we wanted to test some campaigns with the assistance of Fletcher Rowley," the company said.
College Hunks claims they have not ruled out working with Breensmith, noting that there's nothing preventing them from working with two marketing agencies. "They are so distinctly different in their approach on the show that we didn't want to commit to working with just one of them even though we had to pick a winner for the episode itself," Mr. Soliman said. "Marketing and branding is a process, not an event. 'The Pitch' is just the first step in that creative process."
But Breensmith's Mr. Smith said it was the agency's decision to not work with College Hunks. "We weren't going to work with them for nothing," he said. "The money they were talking about was unrealistic and they had big expectations."
Still, Mr. Smith categorized his experience on "The Pitch" as "fun," adding that they "went into it knowing what it was -- a game show."
While Breensmith went into the show intending to operate as they normally would during the pitch process, Mr. Smith said they quickly realized they had to play it like a game.
"It was good for us internally to take the skills we have an put it into a game," he said.
Risks of Reality TV
"The Pitch" has been a point of contention within the industry, with some agency executives complaining the series does not accurately portray the industry or the pitch process.
While Mr. Fletcher had hoped AMC would include a line at the end of the episode saying Fletcher Rowley ended up getting the account, he said he is not disappointed in the process and acknowledged the risks involved in participating in a nonfiction show.
The risk is one that could be a factor in keeping agencies from wanting to sign on; they know what happens on camera isn't always how it plays out in real life.
In response to not including a note about what happened after filming, AMC said: "The advertising industry is dynamic and fluid, and 'The Pitch' depicts what happens during and at the culmination of a defined pitch process, at that moment in time. What we love about this news is that it's a reminder that you should never stop pitching when you believe in your work. We congratulate both agencies."
Mr. Fletcher said despite the ending, what appeared on screen is very accurate of their real-life pitch process. "We didn't do anything different," he said.
The episode shows Mr. Fletcher and his partner John Rowley competing in the Fletcher Rowley office over whose idea to present to College Hunks.
"We compete with each other and the best idea floats to the top," Mr. Fletcher said. "If we can't fight an idea just among ourselves we won't be able to do it against someone else."
At one point Mr. Fletcher blasts Dubstep electronic music in his car to get pumped, and Mr. Rowley reveals how he still thinking about how his high school team lost his last basketball game by a point.
The only part of the process that wasn't in-line with reality was the inability to collaborate with the client and go back and forth to fine tune the message before presenting, said Mr. Fletcher, who was unfazed by having to pitch in front of the competing agency.
Regardless of the accuracy of the process, for Mr. Smith, "The Pitch" has been good PR. "We look at it as a national commercial for Breensmith," he said.