Perfect Pitch

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Jon Banks and Kim Thomsen
Jon Banks and Kim Thomsen
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We last spotted Jon Banks and Kim Thomsen sitting in the credits alongside Crispin Porter + Bogusky on much celebrated innovations like the Burger King/Xbox King Games and, more recently, BK and Fox's "Simpsonize Me." The pair had previously been CEOs at Equity Marketing, BK's longtime premiums/promotions agency, but this year they broke out on their own to launch Pitch, a creative enterprise that promises to put a new spin on promotions marketing.

Home to a staff of 21 and located in an airy warehouse space in Culver City, California, Pitch boasts just one familiar client—BK, for whom it now assumes duties as promo agency of record, on the adult, youth and family side. "Pitch is really a marketing group combining both an idea thinktank and a creative agency," says Banks. Its main focus will be to provide BK and future clients what he calls "proprietary entertainment" initiatives, like Xbox and The Simpsonizer. For example, with Xbox, "having The King, Subservient Chicken in the game was fantastic, but the game itself, especially being able to sell it for $3.99, wouldn't have been possible without the 7500 locations that could act as a separate and unique distribution point. If we had to go to a retailer, the games would have been $30 or $40. The very project itself wouldn't have been possible without using what's proprietary to BK, in this case, the distribution network and its employees who help to promote the games. "

And in terms of partnerships with other brands, it's about "finding the right fit with the brand attributes that are complimentary," adds Thomsen. "In the case of Xbox, the idea is completely proprietary, but not in a way that doesn't feel authentic to consumers. They were cool and compelling games that happened to star these Burger King characters doing things that these BK characters would do, as opposed to old school product placement where it's very clear that this something that some company paid for to get you to go out and buy their product."

While at Equity, just what were Banks and Thomsen's roles in those BK innovations? Pretty significant ones, according to BK's VP/Marketing innovation Brian Gies, who credits the pair for the original ideas that were blown out into the Xbox Games and The Simpsonizer. Moreover, the two had been skillfull collaborators, with client, and agency partners alike. Both Hasbro GM Lisa Licht, the former EVP at Fox who oversaw The Simpsons' effort, and Google's director of marketing Chris DiCesar, who previously steered Xbox creative marketing, enthusiastically sing the duo's praises–DiCesar calls the pair "unsung heroes."

Even more important, "Pitch does a great job in playing with everyone else," says Gies. Thomsen and Banks synched perfectly with the other superstars in BK's marketing mix like Crispin and PR agency Edelman and helped to "maximize the impact of what an idea could be because it crosses every discipline." As for future projects, no one's saying whether anything on the scale of Simpsons or Sneak King is on the horizon, but keep an eye out for an initiative that, given BK's track record, may boldly go where no marketer has gone before. Gies reveals they're now working on an upcoming tie-in with the new Star Trek movie.

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