"The Pitch" Subway episode

10 April 2012

zAMbies?! My Quick Take on “The Pitch”

by Freddy Tran Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango + Sucker for Shows about Advertising…

Just saw AMC’s “The Pitch,” a reality show about ad agencies going head-to-head to land an account. Although it contained the usual heavy editing and over-dramatization of most reality shows, it was fun to second-guess real agencies in action.

This episode featured two agencies, WDCW and McKinney going after the Subway breakfast account. My thoughts?

  • WDCW had better talent. Their writing was clever, and even their stock-photo selection was funny. And that goes to show that creativity alone doesn’t always win accounts.
  • Even if it wins accounts and awards, creativity alone doesn’t always work as marketing. The Subway executives knew that — the “zAMbie” concept was entertaining but not understandable at first glance. Wouldn’t that be a requirement for morning zombies?
  • McKinney nailed the target market with the rapper — and the rapper should get nearly all of the credit. McKinney deserves credit for researching and finding an engaging influencer. Although rap-based commercials targeting young people have been done by everyone, they still work. To round out the concept, McKinney should have also pitched a “Breakfast Wrap” to go with the ad. An idea needs to go beyond just the ads.
  • Neither agency talked about the actual product! I kept wondering, when will they emphasize what makes Subway sandwiches better and different than the competition? Sure enough, that’s what the Subway execs complained about. Right off the bat, both agencies focused on creative that could work for ANY fast-food joint. Hide the Subway logo, and they could be ideas for Wienerschnitzel.
  • When were the creatives going to eat at Subway? The episode contained an odd segment about the McKinney creative director trying to make breakfast for her kid. I was waiting for her to take him to Subway. Did that scene land on the cutting-room floor? If so, why include this bit at all?
  • The agencies needed to think beyond themselves. All their creatives targeted themselves as young professionals or hipsters, who are not morning people and who dig on zombies and rappers. I grew up in a working-class town, where people are wide-awake and heading to work before 8 am. They’re hitting up fast food because it’s quick, cheap, easy, and tastes good, not because they’re morning zombies.
  • It was a lose-lose situation for WDCW. The bigger agency in L.A. is expected to slaughter a mid-size agency in North Carolina. As the underdog, McKinney stood to gain even if they had lost the competition.

I think the ultimate problem is that the agencies tried too hard to look creative for a television audience, instead of doing good work for a client. As a result, both ideas were off pitch.

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches graduate-level marketing communication courses at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

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