The Pitch

What you missed
What You Didn’t See on “The Pitch”
what you missed

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.

Behind-The-Scenes Pics

The first of many late nights. Hasalyn and Skyler are about to swoop down on unsuspecting drive-thru customers. “Can I interest you in a Subway breakfast sandwich two blocks that way?”

WDCW Pitch Team Comments

Matt McCain
“My favorite part of this experience is that we didn’t change who we were for the cameras. Tracy led the right philosophy — we do what we think is right, cameras and potential catastrophic failure or not.”
Matt McCain, Creative Director/Writer
Skyler Mattson
“The most stressful part of the process? Deciding what to wear every day!”
Skyler Mattson, Managing Director
Sydney Chernish
“There is an incredibly involved process that goes into creating what consumers only experience for 30 seconds — not to mention the vast amount of research, information, statistics, planning and brainstorming that fuels every creative aspect of an ad campaign.”
Sydney Chernish, Strategic Planner
Court Crandall
“I would describe our process as pure. It’s designed to get to what we believe is the best work for a brand and we don’t let anyone’s ego or title get in the way — including mine.”
Court Crandall, Executive Creative Director/Partner
Vickie Palm
“Does the camera really add 10 pounds? I hope they don’t put a lot of them on me.”
Vickie Palm, Senior Director of Production
Brianne Burrowes
“Most agencies don’t allow junior members to pitch new business. When Ben asked me to join the team for the final pitch I was blown away. So blown away, that I was more nervous during rehearsals pitching our leadership team than I was during the actual pitch to Subway!”
Brianne Burrowes, Social Strategist
Tracy Wong
“Got to break out the yellow University of Oregon wingtips on national cable. Go Ducks!”
Tracy Wong, Chairman
Skyler Mattson
“After each person presented, Court offered his hand for a discreet low-five. We were in the zone. Giving it our all and having a blast.”
Skyler Mattson, Managing Director
Chris Berry
“I’m still unsure how I feel about presenting a video featuring strobing ham to my colleagues on national television. However, as crazy as the zAMbies campaign looks initially, we felt like it came from a solid strategic place.”
Chris Berry, Senior Art Director
Beth Noll
“I really stepped up my wardrobe, make-up, hair and sound-free shoes.”
Beth Noll, Producer/Project Manager
Clyde McKendrick
“WDCW is unlike any other ad agency. Not because of the ideas we produce, but because of how we produce them. An egoless empire where everyone has a voice, an idea, and believes in working together to make great ideas come to life.”
Clyde McKendrick, Executive Director of Strategy
Hasalyn Modine
“Our process is like a good screenplay — there is a beginning, a middle and an end — with lots of revisions and lots of input.”
Hasalyn Modine, Producer
Sydney Chernish
“I love the energy that overtakes the agency when we’re involved in a pitch, as we’re all-hands-on-deck and all working towards a common goal for a few weeks. The office is abuzz with positive, constructive energy. When you go into a “small” meeting where you’d normally see five people, you now have 25 people; it’s an incredible opportunity to work with nearly everyone in some context.”
Sydney Chernish, Strategic Planner
Amy C. Wise
“I can’t think of another group of people I’d rather be with for 92 hours in five days. Honestly.”
Amy C. Wise, Producer/Project Manager
Matt McCain
“A fair amount of the work we do never gets seen by a national audience. So, as uncomfortable as I was about being filmed coming up with the 783 bad ideas it takes to come up with a handful of great ones, I wanted more people to see what we’re capable of.”
Matt McCain, Creative Director/Writer