What You Didn’t See on “The Pitch”
By Ben Wiener, CEO/WDCW
I was inspired to a career in advertising by that bastion of bad 90s television, “Melrose Place.” If any of you recall a pitch on that show, it consisted of Amanda Woodward giving some pithy preamble, and then Billy Campbell unveiling the big idea with the literal removal of a red drape covering a piece of poster board. And if you watched “The Pitch” you might think “Melrose Place” was indeed an accurate depiction of our industry.
“The Pitch” took two weeks in the lives of two agencies busting their butts, and condensed it to 42 minutes of television. You got to see the highlights from the Subway pitch — the struggle to come up with ideas, the production of those ideas, the presentation of those ideas, and then the crowning of the victor. But it’s what you didn’t see on TV that defines WDCW as an agency. And since I don’t think a three-hour director’s cut of “The Pitch” Episode 101 is forthcoming, here’s some of what there wasn’t time to include in the broadcast episode.
The “Process” Part
The process and strategic rigor underlying creative development aren’t exciting, even if cut into a montage with a Jan Hammer soundtrack. For Subway, we pored over reams of syndicated research covering the state of the QSR business, the breakfast day-part, the habits and behaviors of the target audience, and trends in consumer behavior. We conducted intercepts of consumers in the drive-thru lines of competitive restaurant chains. We interviewed Subway franchisees and managers. We applied our own proprietary methodology called Cultural Capital® to analyze the opportunities to influence consumer attitudes and behavior. And we focus-grouped all of the ideas that were ultimately presented to Subway, improving them along the way.
The development of creative is the last step in a rigorous process to ensure our clients are successful. We’re on the front lines of making sure that sales goals are met, market share is grown, shareholder value is created, and our clients earn their bonuses. We don’t just need to be creative. We need to be right.
Beyond the 30-Second Spot
Based on what you saw in “The Pitch,” you’d think that television advertising is what clients need and what agencies produce. The reality is that traditional media placements occupy an ever-shrinking share of what we do. Our clients value us for holistic, media-agnostic thinking, our ability to help them navigate the ever-changing digital landscape, and the fact that we can provide them with the metrics and analytics to measure marketing effectiveness in real time. So while “The Pitch” showed you a goofy television ad, what you missed was the extension of that idea through multiple channels, including mobile couponing, Spotify integration, Subway’s social-media communities, targeted print advertising, direct mail and viral content.
You might also get the impression that we went back to Subway with one crazy idea about zAMbies. We never present just one idea to clients or prospects. Creative development is a collaborative process, both within the agency and with our clients. It’s unrealistic for us to think we can corner truth, or that the One Perfect Idea actually exists. We showed Subway three equally viable, equally creative, equally on-target approaches. It was impossible to squeeze them in to a single episode of television, but you can check out the work for The Bed Heads and Ummgo Subway here. Be warned, however, that both campaigns contain infectious jingles.
It’s Actually Fun
At WDCW, we enjoy each other’s company. We cherish our culture and share a set of values that insists that part of our job is to make everyone else’s job fun. We’re incredibly lucky. We have great clients that pay us for coming up with ideas. And we have amazing colleagues that make coming in to work every day a pleasure. The entire agency got a massive kick out of being on television. We will be joking about Tracy’s Subway-colored sneakers for years to come. What you saw on TV was mostly one guy from an agency pitching one idea. What you missed was 150 immensely talented and passionate people coming together around a common purpose.
Every one of us touched the Subway pitch in some way. We visited restaurants and recorded observations about who was there and what they were eating. Many of us shared the late nights, early mornings, and weekends of work, helping out in every way we could, whether that was corralling an order of Indian food or modeling for a coupon ad. We weren’t looking to change the world. We were looking to peddle more breakfast sandwiches to 22-year-olds. We managed to be who we are, even with cameras in our faces. And we actually enjoyed ourselves. The crew that filmed us was great. The assignment was interesting. And ultimately, we liked the work that we showed, and we believe it would have worked.
I’m incredibly proud of who we are as an agency and the collective effort we put forth. Within the rigid time constraints of a network show, there’s no way viewers at home will appreciate the remarkable spirit of this company. But I’m lucky enough to experience it every day. And there’s no account in the world in the world I’d trade it for.