AMC President Charlie Collier was an appropriate choice to speak Tuesday afternoon at the American Association of Advertising Agencies' annual meeting, held this year in Los Angeles.
The theme of the gathering is Transformation, and AMC has transformed itself from a network that showed old movies to one that creates award winning original series. One of those series is Mad Men, which is set in the ad industry of the 1960s, when drinking was more prevalent than analyzing data. And Collier himself is attached to the ad business, having been in charge of sales at CourTV before being recruited to AMC.
AMC also has a new show called The Pitch, a reality series that shows two real agencies competing for a project from a real client. The first episode will follow Mad Men on April 8 and the client will be Subway. AMC distributed preview copies to the series to attendees, and asked that no one blog or tweet about the winner.
The show is about coming up with good creative ideas under pressure. "The production values are just superb and the drama happens," says Collier. Some real big agencies declined to take part in the show. One said it didn't want to become the Snooki of Madison Avenue, he said, adding that they should have been thinking about becoming the Anthony Bourdain of advertising.
"The big takeaway is that failure in a creative business is part of the learning, "Collier said. "My family and I do a lot of skiing. We tell the kids ‘if you're not falling, you're not learning.' You've got to push yourself and when you push yourself, you fall down. But like Don Draper, you pick yourself up and move forward."
The Pitch also says something about the TV business' preoccupation with product placement and content integration. The clients, like Subway, pay to be a part of the show, and will have digital content to use as part of their real-life marketing plans.