AMC has successfully crafted one of the most fascinating nighttime soap operas of all time with Mad Men. That show is so great because on top of the requisite drama required for nighttime drama there’s the whole period thing as the show is set in the 60’s and 70’s and there’s enough mystery in the early seasons to draw in both male and female viewers. On top of the period setting and the mystery the show does a phenomenal job of making the world of advertising exciting and interesting. Even fictionalized the whole process of crafting the public or consumer existence of familiar products was often riveting. In a brilliant move AMC has taken that part of Mad Men and given us a reality docu series called The Pitch.
Large companies looking for a new ad campaign bring in agencies and brief them on what the company is looking for. Sometimes the company may be looking to modernize a product, consolidate multiple products within a brand, or branch out into a new market. Both ad agencies return to their offices and work with their creative teams to craft ad campaign pitches. These companies often work up to 24 hours a day to break down the needs of the client and put together logos, slogans, print ad samples, videos, audio spots, and even websites to share with the client at the pitch meeting.
The series is completely formulaic with each episode starting with an introduction to the agencies, then an introduction to the client, the brief, the creative process, the pitch, and ending with the decision of which agency wins the account. With that said though as the series progresses it gets better at building in little character vignettes allowing us to actually invest in the people that make up the agencies. Sometimes it’s the underdog versus the Goliath company and other episodes feature the stodgy but successful agency versus a group of geeks. In a few cases winning a particular multimillion dollar campaign means the agency gets to actually stay open. So there is substantial drama throughout the series, and there would be considering the high level of pressure on artists to output ideas and the exhaustion setting in. For one man, and one company you really see an emotional transition happen and I found myself invested in the outcome hoping for the best for both him and his company. OK yeah, a lot of the guys are egotistical d bags but just like in every form of art that level of confidence is often what it takes to not only be a success but to just survive. For every egotist though there is an interesting character, someone with a story to tell who isn’t what you expect. It can be fun to draw comparisons to some of these real people and characters from Mad Men.
Whether you invest in the actual decision at the end of the episode is important to you or not the journey to that decision is revealing and sometimes riveting. The series says so much about what goes into modern day consumerism and the challenges of getting attention in such a media over-saturated atmosphere. We even see some agencies make multiple appearances throughout the season. It’s unclear just how much reality TV tampering is going on with this series but it refreshingly is crafted in a documentary style and formatted that way too. Now for those with short attention spans that must multi-task it can be challenging because sections of each of the episodes are broken up and pushed forward with text cards so if you look down you may miss a bite of information that varies in levels of importance.
Something else that’s missing is the selection process on the client side. We see some footage of the clients discussing which agency to pick after the pitches but how did the client decide to take pitches from these two particular companies? Is this how it really works or is it something set up by the network and show producers? That part is unclear. The answer could possibly be deduced with a little internet searching but the answer should be provided as part of the viewing experience.
Sure The Pitch can be just a little painfully formulaic but that’s really common in today’s quick bite TV but there are great nuggets of character and real drama to take in. The best part of the series overall is getting a look behind a curtain at what goes into those ads that we try so hard to doge, except on Super Bowl Sunday. The Pitch is a really great partner series for Mad Men and something fans of that series should check out. Season one and two are available on Netflix to gorge on.