Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Agency.com's Subway Pitch

Back in the boom of the last Internet explosion something happened inside most agencies. That something was that a lot of people's heads got a lot closer to their assholes and the aromas found there were declared to be of the finest bouquet.

The arrogance that led to this was something that a lot of clients were incredibly pissed off about when they were handed proposals with prices equating to third world debt and no ROI model to even attempt to justify the cost. It was literally 'take it or leave it and if you leave it your competitor will take it and you'll be out of business.' I can remember sitting down with a project manager who argued with me that 150K was nowhere near reasonable enough a price for 12 week project to show a profit.... Oh really? I hated that arrogance then and I have zero tolerance for it now.

So I'm actually sitting here wondering what it is about the Subway viral pitch release from agency.com that is really annoying me. I think its the very public arrogance of saying "Look at us, this is how we approach a pitch" and god help anyone who sees this as a masterclass. There does seem to be a need inside agencies to become celebrities and the rule I've held up to be true over the years is that when the film crews enter the office to start filming, its usually time to get the hell out because people will develop diva status afterwards and the part that is always lost is that the client is the boss and that we exist to serve their needs as best we can. That doesn't mean you have to become a slave, it just means that you should remember that we are a client led business. If clients trust you they ask your opinion, if clients feel valued they share insight with you, if clients believe in you, they will listen to what you have to say. That's called having a relationship with a client and no amount of glitz and glamor is ever a substitute.

I am aware that what I am watching is canned because the movie tells me, so the whole argument of user based content and being caught in the moment that YOUTube and Flickr exemplify is lost. We are back to the idea of a film roll to support a pitch and this is hardly new. Sure instead of the neat graphics and tripod precision shots of yesteryear we now have hand held cameras but you watch it and think to yourself how many takes did that shot take to get 'right'. I'm feeling like I'm watching a bunch of middle class parents from Long Island try and prove how Brooklyn they really are with very little success.

Just about every part of it seems insulting to me from the initial stilted dialogue (anyone who walks up to me and says corner office without explaining why is likely to get a double espresso hurled at their precise coordinates), to the false cheer leading high fives and the deliberately vague power words on the board. Come on guys if you really are going to live life in front of the camera at least have the guts to actually do it honestly. Your ideas would then have been preserved for posterity in copyleft (anyone who did try and steal them would instantly be found out because its been committed to film on the web doh!).

So of course what we then do is send some of the team off to Subway to work there and stop people in the street to ask them questions about the brand. Might it not have been more honest to stand in the store and ask people why they bought that sandwich and not another? I mean how arrogant do you have to be to ask some poor delivery boy what the best thing about working for Subway is? At a rough guess I'd say that most delivery boys would answer that they pay him and that he finishes in enough time to go and start his second full time job of the day. It's fast food guys, not Gordan Ramsay.

Its just so arrogant-agency-with-head-inserted-in-asshole that its untrue. I can only imagine how much Kleenex was required after this particular masturbation session.

User based content and and viral messaging is an important aspect of the mix these days but if you are going to extol your knowledge of these disciplines then go out and actually demonstrate it. Subway as a brand could very well benefit from viral and social media, but nothing in this piece persuades me that Agency.com understands either discipline or that they have the ideas to implement in order to produce an ROI to Subway. Fans will of course say that it has worked because I am commenting on it, but I am commenting on how bad it is not how good it is. None of this can possibly be of benefit to either Subway or their pitch so as far as I can see it fails at each point. Somehow it is just too perfect that Subway asked for no more than five minutes and the entire piece lasts for 9 minutes. That is too perfect on so many levels.

I guess the point Im making is that if you are trying to show how down with the kids and close to the street you are, its better to check your street cred ranking before booking air time.


Another Old timer, David Bently puts it better than I have

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