AMC is renewing "The Pitch," the reality show that pits agencies against one another to win an account, despite lackluster ratings and some harsh criticism from within the industry.
"Simply put, we love the show," said Joel Stillerman, exec VP-original programming, production and digital content at AMC. "'The Pitch' hits all the criteria we look for in an unscripted show: honest characters, original premise and quality production."
"The Pitch" ignited heated debates among ad agencies, where critics said the series did not accurately portray the industry or the pitch process. It showed CEOs and top marketing executives attending initial meetings with agencies, for example, a rare occurrence in reality. And the format didn't allow any time for the "chemistry check" meetings where marketers consider their cultural fit with agencies, often a major determining factor in ultimately awarding business.
"We are not surprised by the criticism, but there's a wide range of opinions out there," Mr. Stillerman said. "We are happy there's a lively discussion going on within the industry."
"The Pitch" featured 15 small or mid-size shops in its first season: Ad Store, Bandujo Advertising and Design, BooneOakley, Bozell, Conversation , DiMassino Goldstein, FKM, the Hive, Jones Advertising, Kovel/Fuller, McKinney, Muse Communications, SK&G, WDCW LA and Womenkind. The agencies competed for accounts from brands like Waste Management, Popchips and Subway.
Several top agencies declined to participate, including Omnicom Group's BBDO, TBWA, DDB and GSD&M; Interpublic Group of Cos.' Mullen, DraftFCB, Carmichael Lynch, Gotham and Hill Holiday; WPP's Ogilvy, Grey and Wunderman; Publicis Groupe 's Bartle Bogle Hegarty and Fallon ; MDC Partners' CPB and independents such as Cutwater.
"I'd like to believe it will be easier to bring on agencies and brands now that they have seen the show and know what it is all about," Mr. Stillerman said. "But just like season one, it won't be for everyone. Agencies need to decide for themselves if they want to be included."
Eli Holzman, executive producer at Studio Lambert, the studio responsible for "The Pitch," said he received calls from several agencies and brands that were interested in appearing once the first few episodes ran.
Critics shouldn't expect a TV show to be able to depict every nuance of an industry in a restricted amount of time, Mr. Holzman added. "By nature, we need to boil down the 350 hours per episode we shot into 42-minute episodes," he said."
The first season received a nomination for the Critics' Choice Television Awards in the competition reality show category but garnered mediocre ratings and criticism from within the ad industry.
"The Pitch" brought in an average of 303,000 viewers per episodes, according to Nielsen. In comparison, "Comic Book Men," a reality show set in Kevin Smith's comic-book shop, averaged 1.5 million viewers for its first-run episodes.
Some viewers said they wanted more character development, subplots and information about the agencies competing. But the second season is sticking to the initial format, according to AMC.
"The show is not about deeply exploring one agency," Mr. Stillerman said. "It's a docu-portrayal of the creative process in the advertising industry and a real behind-the-scenes look at the pitch process."
The show is trying to tap a broad audience, but Mr. Stillerman said he expects it to particularly appeal to fans of skill-based reality competition series like "Top Chef" and "Project Runway" as well as followers of feature documentaries and quality film productions.
"Everyone is exposed and affected by advertising," he said, adding that he believes there is room to grow the show's ratings . "There's an inherent interest in that world and there's some great storytelling to be done around the creative process."
AMC is in the early stages of an expansion into unscripted programming that began this year. Mr. Stillerman said the network is still experimenting with the content and getting a chance to do some "passion projects."
"We never make a decision to renew a show based on just ratings ," he said.
AMC said it has not yet determined when the second season of "The Pitch" will premiere or which agencies and brands will participate.