What’s the Sitch with The Pitch?

Josh Brewster

There is nothing more nerve-wracking than pitching new business … except, of course, watching other people do it on cable television.

I came to that realization while watching the first season of AMC’s The Pitch – a “real-life” Mad Men-type concept that pits rival agencies against each other to win a major advertising account based solely on … wait for it … the pitch!

The hour-long show is tantalizing. I watch it with the same eagerness my old college roommate had when he watched The Bachelorette, Season 1: On the edge of his seat saying, “That was his answer? She’s giving him the rose? They’re going to the hot tub scene already? They actually got this show green-lighted?”

Okay, so it’s probably not exactly like that. At least not the part about the rose. And I promise I have better college stories … as far as you know.

However, our team at Trozzolo Communications Group definitely can relate to the thrill of the hunt, so dramatically highlighted on The Pitch. The show captures the essence of the world of branding, advertising and public relations. It shows the ferocious competition and the passion that agencies must have for the task at hand to earn the trust and approval of a prospective client.

Competition is fierce, drama is high, creativity is vital, and strategy is king. The show packs a good punch and effectively tells the story of what goes into a new business pitch when the stakes are highest.

However, The Pitch does leave out a few very important elements when it comes to winning new business. And as our team gathers around the water cooler (around here it’s actually a snow cone station) every Monday morning, we can’t help but share our opinions on what the show is missing.

As director of client engagement at Trozzolo, I have the opportunity to lead the preparation for our new business presentations and pitches. And by “lead,” I mean “try not to mess it up for our team.” Since the first season recently ended, I thought I’d take a few moments to outline some vital details that go into pitching and earning new business, which the show left out for one reason or another. Without further ado …

1.    There are no commercials when the pressure escalates. Man, those would be nice. But in the real world, when a line is forgotten or an idea falls on disinterested ears, Pond’s Facial Pads will not be there to save the day. Nope. When the golden line has escaped you and the presentation is hanging in the balance, that’s the point when we dig deep and speak from the heart about the objective and why our ideas offer the best avenue for success.

2.    Money matters. It blows my mind that the show neglects to talk numbers. Understanding a client’s budget (or at least a ballpark figure) is imperative to a successful pitch. We don’t want to build a house our clients can’t live in. Establishing budget parameters help frame the strategies and tactics of a campaign. The grandest of ideas won’t mean anything to the client in a pitch if it is too expensive to execute out in the field. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for big ideas. There most certainly is. They just need to boost the bottom line, not break it.

3.    Relationships aren’t built over seven days. That’s the unrealistic thing about reality TV: It’s packaged perfectly for a viewing audience. On the show, the rival agencies get the assignment, run back to their offices, get to work, and one week later return to try and impress the client with what they’ve come up with. That’s not the way to earn new business. Again, big ideas are great and all, and fancy videos and PowerPoints help tell the story in a pitch. But we believe it’s the people, the camaraderie, and the passion shared by the client and the agency that are the most telling signs of a good partnership. That foundation must be built and fostered over time, well beyond an initial “briefing meeting.”

Sure, competition is fierce, drama is high, creativity is vital, and strategy is king. Check. But when everything else is already on the table, relationships win the day. At least that’s what we believe here at Trozzolo. It’s worked well for the past 23 years … that’s even better than Law & Order’s track record.

– Josh Brewster, director of client engagement. If our agency were on The Pitch, he’d be the guy not pretty enough to show on camera.

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