Mad Men as Reality TV
Even though I savor the subtle intricacies of character development in AMC’s Mad Men, I can understand how one could be drawn to the business of advertising depicted in the show. With storyboards and persuasive language, the employees of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce seek to persuade by creativity.
With this aspect acting as the foundation of AMC’s most famous show, there is no wonder AMC developed The Pitch, a documentary-style reality television series highlighting two rival ad agencies competing for a client.
Competition: The Core of Capitalism
In the sneak peak episode, ad agencies McKinney and WDCW fight over the next big SUBWAY® ad campaign. The episode commences with both agencies meeting at SUBWAY® headquarters learning the preliminary guidelines and target audiences of the advertising campaign.
Upon receiving the assignment, both agencies have one week to create an ad campaign before returning to SUBWAY® headquarters with a pitch. One agency wins; the other returns empty-handed.
On one side, I believe The Pitch carries promise, perhaps becoming the next big reality show highlighting corporate America. On the other side, the series format might become its biggest downfall.
Much like the depiction of the day-to-day at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce in Mad Men, The Pitch flourishes during the scenes in the proverbial kitchen—the work spaces where ideas come to life. With tense brainstorming sessions and gorgeous cinematography of respective workplaces, The Pitch imports the viewer into the agencies.
As a fly on the wall, the viewer gains understanding of the process as the agencies develop a pitch for the client.
However, The Pitch flounders in the character-development department. For starters, those giving the pitch are not those developing the pitch—the high level employees meeting with SUBWAY® entrust pitch development to copywriters.
For this reason, the people we meet at the beginning of the episode step aside during the middle portions while the ideas mature. In fact, the times when the pitch people interact with the copywriters, the senior executives hover over the ideas with insensate opinions.
This schism, coupled with covering two separate agencies, creates surface level characters. The viewer never understands how these ad agencies function. We get a glimpse of the process, mostly from the copywriters as they explain the fear behind proposing an idea, exposing their creativity to criticism.
Lastly, The Pitch covers new ad agencies every week. As such, any traction in character development one week disappears with a new cast of characters the next. Such a position leaves The Pitch prone to inconsistent television with each episode surviving or dying on the strength of that week’s cast of characters.
Will The Pitch make compelling television? I’m not sure. Certainly, there is a blueprint for success—most viewers find glimpses into alternative careers to be fascinating. Yet, new ad agencies every week create difficulty for overarching stories. Weekly meeting a new ensemble of characters means no connections.
Does a series need connections? Not necessarily. Look at Undercover Boss, a highly successful series where presidents and CEOs go undercover to learn more about their companies. But each episode of Undercover Boss features one person in one company, while The Pitch highlights two ad agencies competing for the business of a third party.
The Pitch has promise, on the whole. If you are curious about marketing, design, and the advertising industry, you might enjoy this show.
Verdict: 3 out of 5