August 2016

Do any of you remember the AMC reality show called, “The Pitch?” It was billed as a real-life advertising agency pitch-scenario with real agencies and real clients. I think the show only lasted 2 seasons – 2012 and 2013; wow, hard to believe it was that long ago. I was thinking about the show the other day as we prepared for yet another Florida pitch of our own.

Why didn’t the show last? I’m not sure anyone really truly knows.

Perhaps it was because the mega-big advertising agencies didn’t want to participate? It’s true, they didn’t buy in. Were they afraid?

Well speculation is that the BIG agencies chose not to get involved in THE PITCH because they didn’t want to expose their “pitch secrets” for all, including competitive agencies, to see. They had proprietary strategic processes to protect; one-of-a-kind brand planning techniques that they didn’t want anyone else to get their hands on. Trademarked brainstorming methods, right?

I had to chuckle.

You see, although I now own a small advertising agency in Orlando, Florida (actually in Altamonte Springs, Florida) I’ve worked at, and been a pitch guy at, many of the great agencies including Compton/Saatchi & Saatchi, Cunningham & Walsh/NW Ayer, Bozell Jacobs and Cramer-Krasselt. And one thing I’m pretty confident in saying is that the “greats” didn’t refuse this reality show because they were afraid of exposing their secret sauce; they refused it because they were afraid they’d expose the fact they have no secret sauce.

They didn’t want anyone to find out that they were honestly no better than my little advertising agency in Orlando, Florida – just more people to do the work, and more money to throw at it. And before anyone starts taking pot shots at me, I promise that this statement is not meant to be a cheap shot against BIG agencies; I cherished every moment I worked at big agencies on Madison Avenue – 12 year’s.

Let me explain.

Advertising was, is, and always will be, a product of people - creative minds that can uncover insights and then turn those insights into something magical. “Trademarked, proprietary processes” are a fancy-pants device used by new biz dudes (like me) to create the perception of differentiation in a pitch. Fact is clients at the beginning of a pitch-process look for such differentiators when trying to weed out the riff-raff and get the agency list down from twenty-five to five. So, as an agency, you need those fancy-pants, trademarked, proprietary processes in order to get the proper boxes checked.

Now, if an agency that has spent years’ worth of pitches selling those fancy-pants processes were to agree to do this show, then that thick, meaty, “secret sauce” might be seen as watered down broth so thin you can see through it.

Frankly there should not be much of a secret to THE PITCH sauce. In fact I believe that so much that I’m willing to reveal 78Madison’s secret sauce. One, most pitch audiences only care about how your services will benefit them (as they should), so lead with benefits rather than agency credentials and capabilities. Two, keep it simple. You might have twenty points to make, but your audience is only capable of retaining 3 or 4 points. Give them too many points and they’ll forget everything you’ve said.

What do you think? I’d love to know.

Joe Bouch
CEO, 78Madison

78Madison is a full-service advertising agency based in Orlando, Florida.