Tuesday, May 29, 2012

10151: One Blog’s Opinion On The Pitch.

The accusations of racism compelled MultiCultClassics to overturn the decision to avoid watching AMC series The Pitch—and thanks to digital technology, the latest episode of the reality TV show was actually viewed.

The faceoff between Bozell and Muse definitely spotlighted all of The Pitch’s problems previously presented by this blog and critics at large. Sources have griped the producers and editors make participating agencies look bad. MultiCultClassics contends the editing only dramatizes the competitors’ true strengths and weaknesses—and this week’s installment was no exception.

The Bozell-Muse showdown underscored two points worth examining:

1. The lack of level playing fields between White shops and minority shops

2. The self-sabotaging attitudes prevalent at minority firms

In the real world, account reviews are typically held between similar agencies. Hell, it’s one reason why minority shops are always iced out of the festivities. Not sure who elected to pair these shops. Maybe the rural-urban angle seemed intriguing. More likely, the move indicates The Pitch’s producers just don’t understand the ad game.

To be blunt, Bozell against Muse equals the San Antonio Spurs versus the Los Angeles Clippers—or maybe the former New Jersey Nets. BTW, that’s a huge compliment to Bozell, as the place is not exactly championship material. If the advertising industry were the NBA, Bozell would be the Harlem Globetrotters. No disrespect to Muse, but a fairer matchup would have been Bozell and GlobalHue, Burrell, Carol H. Williams or commonground.

Bozell boasted greater experience, resources and talent. The Omaha team tapped multiple executives from multiple departments, and wound up producing multiple, multi-channel concepts. The Culver City crew appeared to have one copywriter and an art director with a Creative Director title—and they shat out a lame mood board. Sorry, but the duo was not very good. Need proof? Bozell beat them with its back-up campaign. Ouch.

This blog once suggested that The Pitch should force White shops to toil under the substandard conditions minority shops routinely face, while allowing the minorities to enjoy the Caucasian benefits. That didn’t happen here. Rather, it was a clash between unequal adversaries, resulting in a blowout. A bona fide laugher. Can’t fault Bozell for anything—they simply brought their game.

Kudos to Executive Creative Director Jerry Stoner for leading his players to victory, despite having to cope with a douche bag Social Influence Director and a shrewish Managing Principal. The work was hardly stellar; in fact, the TOD notion was dumb, and BeTheVoiceOfOne appeared to be a conservative evolution of the client’s original position (there were foam “number one” hands at the briefing). Regardless, Stoner was savvy enough to keep the second concept alive, and he knew how to make authentic connections with the clients and his partners, demonstrating the skills of a wily veteran. As mentioned above, The Pitch dramatizes true strengths and weaknesses, and Stoner has plenty of strengths.

OK, time to consider the second underscored point involving the self-sabotaging attitudes prevalent at minority firms.

Most below-the-line enterprises—from digital to direct marketing—exhibit second-fiddle/redheaded-stepchild tendencies, and minority shops fall into the low self-esteem mix. Indeed, the racial and ethnic components arguably compound the situation. And Muse clearly displayed the unfortunate phenomenon.

After the briefing, Jo Muse was already conceding defeat, declaring he “didn’t win the chemistry game.” Online comments charged Muse was being racist when saying he was unable to portray “a Midwestern White guy or White girl” persona—as well as his “vanilla” observation. The conversation was private and code, and Whites will be hard-pressed to comprehend it. Additionally, in certain ways, Muse was correct. The clients and competitors were painfully White (are there any minorities at Bozell?). Not convinced the mutterings qualify as racist; however, it felt defeatist. On this stage, the Muse team would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their campaign. The agency should have focused on big ideas. Instead, Muse members were whining about being outside of their comfort zones and areas of expertise. Um, why the fuck did you sign up for The Pitch? Did Muse envision battling a peer minority shop?

Creative Director Marcus Moore is probably super-talented, yet he wasn’t ready for the challenge. Bringing in a presentation coach was ridiculous, and further exposed the self-sabotaging behavior. Direct the energies on refining the campaign, not the side antics. A pitch requires utilizing the best presenter, and if Jo Muse questioned Moore’s abilities, the Chairman should have found another person more qualified or handled the job himself.

Ironically, the Muse team did not look rehearsed or polished during the final presentation. Moore’s opening MLK quote might have been interesting if the phrase had relevance to the campaign. It did not. Most importantly, One Less Prick was sophomoric, contrived and completely out of character for JDRF and its audience. Muse lost the minute the mood board was unveiled. Hell, they lost by opting to pursue the theme line at all.

Despite formidable odds, Muse could have put on a winning performance. Diabetes is a major concern for minorities. Muse could have leveraged its prowess targeting multicultural segments into a broader context. The research people could have uncovered fresh insights for the JDRF folks. The creatives could have fought harder and made it an all-hands-on-deck affair. Did Muse exert more sweat on White Space than the televised task? The agency should have re-read Craig Brimm’s Manifesto for inspiration.

Sadly, Muse teammates figured they had lost from the start. In contrast to Bozell, the Culver City shop lacked leadership, unity and confidence in the work. Self-sabotaging and defeatist attitudes become self-fulfilling prophecies.

It would be a tragedy if bigots used The Pitch to advance opinions that minorities are professionally inferior. To repeat, other minority shops could have trounced Bozell. If LatinWorks or Grupo Gallegos joined the bout, the potential and possibilities would be obvious and evident. Diversity must still be confronted in the advertising industry. The real issues won’t be solved on reality TV.

Oh, and MultiCultClassics won’t waste 45 minutes on The Pitch again.


Anonymous said...

Besides the humiliating defeat, why would any self-respecting creative want to work at MUSE or any other minority shop knowing the stigma and backlash that comes with it? Its a lose lose situation. clients dont even respect those agencies. Your end statement about diversity being confronted will not happen. Clients and GM agencies are confortable in the White client-White agency dynamic, integration is not possible. They dont even consider it racist, its just the standard. They hire diversity officers and host "diversity events" for just window dressing. The holding companies like IPG and Omnicom wont even release their diversity stats. People dont really care. I would love to see a AMC create a show about GM agencies Pitching ideas on how to fix diversity within advertising. If diversity in advertising is the biggest problem these agencies face, how come nobody will make a attempt to really fixing it?

Anonymous said...

I place the blame sorely on the creatives. They went for the cheap way out, “One less prick,” really? The copywriter thought this was “edgy?” No, it was juvenile and sophomoric. And the fact the Creative Director, Marcus, went ahead with this line makes me question his judgment. If this is his idea of a winning campaign its obvious he can’t tell a good concept from a bad one, and is not worthy of his title. A good CD champions and strives for great work, not mediocre work.