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McKinney's Liz Paradise Talks About Her TV Turn on 'The Pitch'

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If you watch "Mad Men," "The Killing" or any other AMC TV show, you've probably seen Liz Paradise. The exec VP-group creative director at McKinney not only appeared in the first episode of the network's new reality drama show about the ad business, "The Pitch," she's also helping to market it. She's in a perpetually-running promo for the series, in which we hear emphatically that she "really f-ing" wants to win.

Liz Paradise
Liz Paradise

Well, she did. In the premiere episode, McKinney wins an assignment from Subway -- though there's no word yet on when that work will air.

According to Ms. Paradise, who made some time to speak with us this week, she really burns toast and she really uses drops the F-bomb constantly, as we saw her do on TV. But she also admitted there's a different dynamic that takes place within a creative department when you're making advertising as part of TV show vs. what might happen with clients off-air. Here's what she had to say about the experience of starring on "The Pitch."

Ad Age: When it comes to reality TV, there's always a ton left on the cutting-room floor. Was there anything that didn't make it into the episode that you wish had?

Ms. Paradise: Yes. there was an awesome ping-pong game that [McKinney partner and Chief Creative Officer] Jonathan Cude and I played that was vicious and wonderful. And I was really hoping that would make it in because I won.

Ad Age: Speaking of winning, there is that promo that is completely unescapable with you saying how you really "fucking want to win," with the curse bleeped out. Is that how you really are? Do you constantly curse?

Ms. Paradise: Yes. The fact that only one F bomb made it in there is probably pretty good. There were probably quite a few others.

Ad Age: It felt like on the show, they wanted to really use you as an example of a working mom, struggling to balance your home life with work. At one point, you're standing in the kitchen and your son instructs you not to burn the toast. Firstly, I have to know, do you really not know how to make a piece of toast? And secondly what's your son's take on the show, and why his mom is on TV? Was he comfortable with it?

Ms. Paradise: All of those things that happened in my house were 100% authentic and real and true. It's not that I don't know how to make a piece of toast, it's that I'm not used to the settings and timings because I'm not the one who normally handles it. The show made me look good because I burned, I think, six pieces of toast and they only showed two. For my son, if we had to make something up that wasn't authentic or true, he would have been nervous. But the reminding me not to burn the toast and rolling of the eyes is actually really typical.

This whole thing about painting a picture of a powerful woman and a working mom ... I don't pretend to do it gracefully, and the downside is it can be a little messy at home, like you saw. The bigger point there is that I've never really thought about myself as a woman in advertising as much as a creative person in advertising. ...Fifty percent of our creative directors are women. We don't think consciously about male versus female. It is something that comes up about women in advertising and [the question of] why aren't there more? But it's just not the case at McKinney.

Ad Age: The cornerstone of the campaign you pitched was the rapper "Mac Lethal." I was looking at his Twitter feed, @MacLethal666, and he talks about cocaine and hookers and fat blunts. Wasn't that a concern when you're bringing him in front of a client?

Ms. Paradise: With "The Pitch," you worry less about those things, and you're really just going for it. He seemed like the absolute best thing to do at the time. In real life, would we have to have looked at his background and considered it? Probably. He's a really talented guy so we felt like what we had to bring to the party at that time far outweighed any concerns or risks that we could have had about bringing him in.

Ad Age: What did you think of "Zambies," the idea that your competition on the show, Wong Doody Crandall Weiner, pitched? Alex Bogusky said on Twitter that -- were he still in advertising -- he would have gone with WDCW's idea, and many people seemed divided over who had the better concept.

Ms. Paradise: When you're watching the show, you don't get the full spectrum of the work … the campaign was probably even more impressive than what you saw on TV. But I would never judge another agency's work from a TV show. I thought it was all respectable and it had a little bit of quirk and crazy to it, which was right for that segment [the target audience of 18- to 24-year-old males].

Ad Age: When is your Subway work coming out?

Ms. Paradise: Don't know yet. It's still a work in progress.

Ad Age: Will it come out? Is that definite?

Ms. Paradise: It should.

Ad Age: Any regrets about the show?

Ms. Paradise: None. It was really fun.

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