Sixteen small and midsize agencies are winding up for the next season of "The Pitch" this summer -- including one that was an Ad Age Small Agency of the Year in 2012.
The AMC reality series, now in its second outing, has drawn shops from Nashville, Chicago and the Los Angeles area that will vie on camera for business from brands such as Little Caesars and 1-800-Flowers.
Also among the eclectic collection of marketers on deck when the show returns on August 15: beauty and spa brand Bliss; College Hunks Hauling Junk; Gibson Guitar Corp.; SquareTrade; Tommy Bahama; and a true classic -- Fuller Brush Co.
Once again big agencies seem to have passed up a shot to appear on the show. That leaves a smattering of independent firms, eight of them from California, to compete for marketing assignments. The most recognizable on the list is Commonground, a gold winner in Ad Age's Small Agency of the Year competition last year. The shop recently broke into film production as executive producer of five short films and a 60-minute documentary that aired on USA and Ovation network.
"The Pitch" ignited debate among ad agencies in its first season, with critics saying it did not accurately portray the industry or the pitch process. It showed CEOs and top marketing executives attending initial meetings with agencies, for example, which is a rare occurrence. The format and time restraint also didn't show marketers evaluating the cultural fit of the agency, which often is a big part of the process.
Of course, it's difficult to boil down the entire process to a 42-minute episode, and AMC's intention was to appeal to a broad base of reality-competition viewers drawn to shows such as "Top Chef" and "Project Runway," as well as followers of feature documentaries and quality film productions.
Several top agencies declined to participate in the first season, including 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; Publicis Groupe's Bartle Bogle Hegarty and Fallon ; MCD Partners' CPB; and independents such as Cutwater.
While "The Pitch" received a nomination for the Critics' Choice Television Awards in the competition-reality-show category, season one garnered mediocre ratings, averaging 303,000 viewers an episode, according to Nielsen.
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 produced by All3Media America.