There’s A Huge Difference Between On Camera And Behind The Camera

AMC, which already has a major hit on its hands with Mad Men, is now pitching a new reality show that will pit real ad agencies against one another in a real life pitches. But agencies are not biting, according to Ad Age.

Doug Spong, president of Carmichael Lynch, said that they weighed the idea but “at the end of the day, we decided that the tremendous time commitment, lack of anything financially tangible at the end (even if we were to ‘win’ the assignment against the competing agency) and risk to our reputation as an agency simply outweighed any reward for participating. Personally, I was worried that the drama involved in reality programming today would alienate and offend some of our clients, turn off blue-chip prospects, and leave everyone with the question of ‘Why do we have so much time to play make-believe when there’s so much deserving client work to be created and produced.'”

Another concern: that clients wouldn’t appreciate company time being used to promote the shop over the brand.

I can understand why agencies don’t want to appear on camera, after all viewers might discover that there’s no such thing as a proprietary system for solving marketing problems. And that realization ultimately gives too much credit to the creative team.

I’m also wondering where the drama is in this idea. A bunch of ad grunts pulling all-nighters to prepare for a pitch isn’t exactly the kind of thing that makes for exciting television.

Interestingly, Ad Age notes that The Gruen Transfer, a show from Australia that delves into the psychology and science behind advertising has, somewhat shockingly, made for compelling television. The show is prepping to go into its fourth season in August.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. While it’s understandable that agencies would not be interested for all the reasons you listed and more, this comment is not exactly right: “I’m also wondering where the drama is in this idea. A bunch of ad grunts
    pulling all-nighters to prepare for a pitch isn’t exactly the kind of
    thing that makes for exciting television.” Programs like “Celebrity Apprentice” essentially have contestants creating pitches for products. That’s also how the programs gain advertiser interest. I’ll personally agree that it isn’t exciting television, but it’s hard to deny Americans like to watch this sort of shit.

    • Agreed. It’s probably easier to say it is not interesting television when it is something you are immersed in on a daily basis. With all the other “uninteresting” shows that get ratings, it wouldn’t surprise me if it became popular.

  2. Dan Goldgeier says:

    I think the other peril here for many ad agencies is the scripted and manipulated nature of these shows. Clearly, the process most agencies go through isn’t really exciting or drama-filled. I bet the producers of this show would encourage agencies and their members to do lots of things they wouldn’t ordinarily do, or behave in ways they wouldn’t ordinarily behave, to create more drama and tension. I doubt a lot of agency staffers would be comfortable working under those circumstances.

    • On second thought, it would be sort of interesting to witness various agency staff and their quirky behaviors. Who is a jerk and who is not would then be revealed for all to see. Which takes us back to why agencies are hesitant to be part of this. Radical transparency is fun to talk about and add to our slide decks, but when it comes to our own companies being nakedly exposed, it’s a daunting concept.

  3. Don Drooper says:

    One more thing. AMC does not really have a major hit on its hands with Mad Men. The show is getting awards and accolades, but its ratings would not earn it a spot on most major networks.