Pitching for Garbage.

I never watch fictional programmes about the ad industry.

They’re usually filled with more obnoxious caricatures than a Gerald Scarfe annual.

But I stumbled across a documentary / reality show on Sky Atlantic called ‘Pitch’.

The concept is very simple: A film crew follows two rival ad agencies round as they prepare to pitch for the same piece of business. They only have a week to conceive and produce the work, so the deadline is tighter than Janet Dickinson’s forehead.

It starts off with the two agencies getting a brief from the client. In this episode, a Waste Management company that turns garbage into renewable energy. And they tasked the agencies with raising awareness of this fact.

Nice brief. I’d like to work on it myself.

One agency was based in NY, called the Ad Store, run by Paul Cappelli, a seasoned veteran with a wheelbarrow full of awards. A small shop whose USP was creativity. The other agency was based in Vegas called SK+G whose main source of clients, surprisingly enough, came from the entertainment sector.

After much chewing of the cud, the Ad Store vet came up with a cracking idea:

Trash Can

What’s so great about that? I hear you cajole.

Well, when you put it with the creative executions it all becomes clear:

What can power a million homes?
Trash Can.

What can save 20 million barrels of oil a year?
Trash Can.

You can see that it has more legs than a LA model agency.

Love it. Very simple. Very clear and very memorable.

Next up, SK+G.

They had Joint Group Creative Directors, one of whom made it his mission to belittle his partner throughout the entire documentary. Not only that, he contradicted his creative partner’s presentation in front of the client.

He even took the opportunity to grass-up his partner to the MD when he’d nipped home to kiss his kids goodnight. (He hadn’t seen his kids all week and was actually coming back to the office.)

I have two kids. And I work in advertising. So I know what it’s like trying to juggle meeting client deadlines and trying to be a good father. Mr Hentges, (the nice GCD), came across as not only a diligent creative director, but a caring father too. Whereas his colleague came across as a self-obsessed, odious cliché.

If political rivalry in front of a client isn’t bad enough, the work was pretty mediocre too: Waste into Wow!

Did I say ‘mediocre’? I meant shit.

They did have some decent individual executions such as: This garbage truck runs on garbage. Very sweet. But the big idea – Waste is Wow. Well, it just isn’t ‘Wow’.

To me, it was a no-brainer. The Ad Store’s “Trash Can” was the clear winner.

After a brief sojourn, the client decided to award the business to SK+G for their Waste is Wow campaign.

Hang on, let me rewind that. Did you say SK+G?

As a creative, you always want to do the best work you possibly can. Not so you can decorate your book or take the long walk at the awards ceremonies, but because you think it’s right. Right for the brief and right for the client. You’re passionate about it.

But what you can’t legislate for, is a client mistaking a smart phone app for a big idea.

That’s just like saying the billboard is the idea rather that what goes inside it.

Still, it made for entertaining viewing. (For me anyway.)

If you’re in the ad industry you probably will too. The Pitch is on Sky Atlantic, Wednesdays at 8.00 p.m.

If you’re not in the ad industry, it will probably confirm your already preconceived notions of what a bunch of dicks ad people really are.

Right, I’m off to vacuum the stairs. Livin’ the dream, people. Livin’ the dream.


Filed under Advertising, Brand, Digital, Ideas, Strategy

7 responses to “Pitching for Garbage.

  1. Hi David – I couldn’t agree more. I actually sent an email to Mr Cappelli – telling him that was was robbed. He sent me a nice reply. He agreed that if the campaign was for a British company – he’d have won the pitch hands down.

    • Hi Peter, fair play for emailing him. And it’s good that he took the time to reply. He’s probably right about the UK mentality to advertising rather than the brash approach they eventually went with. I watched last week’s episode and I can’t even remember the client or the agencies involved.

  2. Matt Sefton

    Nice article – love The Pitch and agree with all your observations. Interestingly, visiting to the SK+G website I noted that the odious Creative Director doesn’t appear on their staff page. Maybe he got his just desserts…

    • Hi Matt, I too, had a look at SK+G’s website and noticed the odious one’s omission. I wondered if he’d got the boot, then the cynic in me wondered if he was a production company plant to spice things up a bit? (With the agency’s consent, of course.)

  3. Matt, I also meant to mention that I saw the Waste Management pitch work on SK+G’s website, but couldn’t see the comparative work on The Ad Store’s, (presumably because they didn’t win). So I didn’t feel I could show any examples without showing both sides of the argument.

  4. Bill Delaney

    Advertising could be so much better if client representatives knew how it works, what were the limitations and how to help expand solid ideas. I guess it will never happen, but it appears that the Waste Management company still has some growing to do?

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