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‘The Pitch’ Recap: BooneOakley Battles Conversation for PopChips

(From Agency Spy – May 14, 2012) Just four episodes into its first season, is it possible that the days are already numbered for AMC’s advertising reality show, The Pitch? After two weeks in the Monday, 10pm/9c time slot, the cable network seems to have permanently shifted The Pitch, now scheduling it to air on Sundays at 11pm/10c.

Obviously, this is a strategic move to glean viewers from Mad Men, which airs an hour earlier. But, AMC must also be hoping that America will actually stay up watching TV until midnight before they have to go to work the next day. In any case, this abrupt scheduling change surely caused many fans of the show to miss maybe this season’s most anticipated episode, which featured one of the country’s most talked-about young agencies and a food brand that’s recently shown us it’s willing to take risks to get noticed. (SPOILERS AHEAD!!!)

New York-based “emerging media experts” Conversation (clients include L’Oreal and Children’s Place) and Charlotte, NC-based BooneOakley, the Bojangles AOR which has done work in the past for Mizuno–now at fellow Pitch alums McKinney–and Ruby Tuesday; they literally blew up the latter’s restaurants) star in this latest episode. Both fly to San Francisco to receive the creative brief from Keith Belling, the CEO of fast-growing snack food, PopChips. Belling takes pride in his product, telling the agencies, “Our brand is about innovation and fresh ideas” before unveiling the brief: Create a digital video or interactive campaign that people will want to share. Luckily, “viral” is something that Conversation and BooneOakley count among their specialties.

At the brief, we’re introduced to Greg Johnson, BooneOakley’s CMO who came to the agency after helping build Nike’s Jordan Brand apparel line. With Johnson, we see, for the first time in this series, someone asking the client strategic questions like “Who’s the target?” After the brief, BooneOakley’s co-founders and CCOs, John Boone and Dave Oakley, both praise Johnson’s strategic thinking, considering their CMO an integral part of the agency’s success. Suddenly, while Boone and Oakley stare out at the San Francisco Bay with the moonlight aggressively reflecting off of their blonde hair, they receive a call that Johnson’s been rushed to the hospital with stomach pains.

Johnson’s illness results in getting his gallbladder removed, keeping him out of commission during almost the entire creative process. How big is the loss of Johnson to BooneOakley? Well, if we’re to believe AMC’s portrayal, both John Boone and Dave Oakley turn into confused, easily distracted children without their CMO by their side.

The duo are seen struggling to brief their agency upon returning to North Carolina, seemingly unable to verbalize what PopChips wants. Then, as the agency transitions into brainstorming mode, both copywriter Keith Greenstein and account exec Jennifer Yancey worry aloud to the camera that their bosses need Johnson to keep them on track. These concerns are interspersed with shots of Boone and Oakley playing with bubble wrap and a remote-controlled helicopter. Yancey even says point blank to the camera, “What the hell is going on?”

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