Why Our Ad Agency Turned Down a Chance to Be Featured on National TV

A D.C. Shop Weighs Reality-Show Stardom Against the Disruption of Rolling TV Cameras

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When our agency was invited to be on AMC's "The Pitch," we immediately saw our name in lights. We were about to grace the front page of The New York Times, above the fold of course. This was it. Our big break. Hollywood was calling!

After the initial excitement wore off, we approached this with the same rigorous review that we would any business opportunity. We began to deliberate the pros and cons, pore over legal documents and consider how our involvement might affect clients. We examined the reality of being on reality TV. We polled our entire agency, reached out to trusted friends and spoke with family. We looked at our team. Which one of our employees could become the next Snooki?

While a variety of factors went into our final decision, the one that loomed largest was the likely possibility of the entire ordeal becoming a massive distraction from our work. Our clients' lives are no longer defined by sales, promotion, acquisition and persuasion, though those still have their place. They come to us asking, "How do I better engage with my customers, how do I build trust, what do I do next?" But if cameras are everywhere, privacy is likely to be invaded, process can be disrupted and, yes, that secret sauce can be spilled. Controlling the message, a guiding principle for all marketers, becomes impossible with reality TV. Finally, after an agonizing few days, we made our decision. We were going to pass.

Our whole industry is based on the ability to make something out of nothing. We turn a piece of plastic into a lifestyle product with an emotional appeal. It's our job to make services you can't see feel trustworthy, to build brand loyalty in products you can't touch. To get there, a finely tuned creative and research process is developed, optimized and refined.

This TV show would disrupt that routine. It's as if we'd be changing our diet, practice habits, sleep schedule and pregame rituals -- not to mention posting the team playbook on the NCAA website -- right before round one of March Madness. With this show, everything is up in the air and out of our control. How would our process appear to outsiders? There were just too many uncertainties.

It's difficult to imagine something more compelling for an agency than the prospect of being on TV. It's certainly beneficial to have our people recognized for the work they do every day, to have our successes lauded and our story told. Being on "The Pitch" could possibly make us famous. Anything is possible.

On the other hand, there are many ways we can promote  our company without having to trust a TV show to tell our story. We prefer to craft our own message and better steer our own destiny. Using the same principles that we leverage for clients, we can mount a targeted  social-media campaign. We can maximize strategic partnerships, such as this story with Ad Age . We can develop and create digital assets, targeting CMOs or the advertising community and sparking more relevant conversation than could possibly come through our involvement in an episode of "The Pitch."

Since I started this agency in 2003, my life has been consumed by growing it. We've been so successful in doing things our own way, we don't need a team of Snookis. We just want to be us.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Anthony Pappas is president of Pappas Group, an agency based in the Washington, D.C. area.
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