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McKinney, AdStore and Others to Star in AMC's 'The Pitch'

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AMC's reality show about the world of advertising is more likely to lift the veil on some of Adland's independent shops than on the legendary players of Madison Avenue.

Production company Studio Lambert is currently shooting "The Pitch," which is scheduled to premiere next spring, at a quartet of shops: The Ad Store in New York City, SK&G in Las Vegas, The Hive in Toronto and McKinney in Durham, N.C., Ad Age has learned.

The agencies signed on to "The Pitch" so far represent a wide geographic spread. That will probably breed a telegenic clash of cultures and ideas as staffers are filmed formulating creative pitches and facing off for marketers to win real pieces of business. It's unclear which marketers are going to be starring in the show, but a sizzle reel earlier this year featured Yahoo and Kodak.

"The Pitch" is one of several unscripted shows green-lighted by AMC, part of an effort to diversify programming beyond "Breaking Bad," "Mad Men" and the "Walking Dead" -- original scripted series that are successful but expensive.

McKinney is the oldest and probably the best-known agency among the confirmed participants on "The Pitch" [see box]. But Studio Lambert and AMC are still working to recruit several more agencies for the first season.

The studio had courted a long list of agencies, but many took a pass. As Ad Age reported last summer, those include Omnicom Group's BBDO, TBWA, DDB and GSD&M; Interpublic Group of Cos.' Mullen, DraftFCB, Carmichael Lynch, Gotham and Hill Holliday; WPP's Ogilvy, Grey and Wunderman; and Publicis Groupe's Bartle Bogle Hegarty and Fallon. Also saying no were MDC Partners' Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal & Partners; Havas' Arnold; and independent Mother.

At the time of that story, a few other well-known shops were still having talks with studio executives, but they have since also declined, Ad Age has learned. That list includes MDC Partners' Crispin Porter & Bogusky, WPP-owned JWT, Interpublic Group's Martin Agency and McCann, Omnicom Group's Zimmerman, Grupo ABC-owned Pereira & O'Dell, and Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi and Leo Burnett.

Conversations with executives at agencies that declined suggest there was no lack of desire for the TV exposure. Several told Ad Age they were eager to participate but were hamstrung by clients. Many well-known agencies work with Fortune 500 clients and category-leading marketers who, for competitive reasons, wouldn't be thrilled to display their operations and work on national TV.

But if the show gains a following -- if it makes the advertising business entertaining for a broad audience more accustomed to controversial shows like "Sister Wives" or romantic contests like "The Bachelor" -- the same shops that were initially skittish may clamor for a subsequent season. After all, a major challenge for agencies is differentiating themselves. Being on TV -- for better or for worse -- could be one way to do that.

Pereira & O'Dell turned down "The Pitch" but could reverse course, a spokeswoman told Ad Age. "We feel it would be too disruptive for our agency right now," she said. Participating would also require divulging "too much proprietary information," she said. "We'll certainly watch though, and you never know -- there's always Season Two."

There will be a lot of watching-and-seeing going on with AMC's forthcoming lineup under AMC Networks president-CEO Josh Sapan. Other reality shows planned for next year are "JJK Security," about staffers at a private security firm in Georgia, and "Secret Stash," which is set in Kevin Smith's comic shop and is focused on comic books fans.

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