Agencies go head to head at Ad Week D.C.


Bates Creative concludes their contribution to the pitch competition at Ad Week D.C. (Jeffrey MacMillan/JEFFREY MACMILLAN FOR WASHINGTON POST)
September 16, 2012

Washington may have the largest concentration of advertising and marketing professionals in the country per capita, but that doesn’t make it any easier to attract young graduates, Teddi Alyce Segal said.

So this year, as the chairwoman of Ad Week D.C., Segal decided to shake things up with a pitch competition.

“We have a really hard time attracting talent,” she said. “So I thought, let’s make this more interactive. Let’s show people that it’s not just New York or L.A. — we’ve got creative chops, too.”

Segal solicited four teams to create campaigns for DCBeer.com, a Web site for craft beer aficionados. On Thursday evening, the groups duked it out for a chance to win the account. There was a panel of four judges, but it was up to the audience to choose the ultimate winner.

There were a few ground rules: Each team had 10 minutes to present. They could have as many as five people on stage, but at least three of them had to be under the age of 30.

“This event got completely put on steroids,” said Segal, a vice president at Grafik. “I wanted to give hungry young talent an opportunity to be seen and strut their stuff.”

The teams’ proposals included everything from the traditional — TV commercials and Metro signs — to more creative ideas, like coasters and above-urinals posters that said, “Craft beer is one with nature. Thanks for returning it.”

Earlier in the week, about 400 conference attendees discussed social media and heard from the likes of Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis and Seth Goldman, the president of Honest Tea, during the ninth annual Ad Week D.C. conference.

In hosting a communal pitch session, Segal also inadvertently gave agencies a rare glimpse into the thought process of their peers and competitors.

“Never do agencies get to hear each others’ pitches,” said Andy Blenkle, executive director of Iostudio, one of the competitors. “The mechanics of pitching an account are typically the same, but the thinking often produces very different and interesting outcomes.”

Ideas flowed like beer

For Bates Creative Group, an agency based in Silver Spring, the campaign became about connecting fun experiences — such as bachelorette bar crawls or after-work happy hours — to DCBeer.com.

“You’re inviting people into new experiences they normally wouldn’t have through ... your Web site,” the team told the panel of four judges.

Home Front Communications, based in the District, took a different approach. They created signs that featured a glass of beer on the left side and a pug on the right. “For those more captivated by the image on the left,” the signs read, “DCBeer.com.”

Velcro Creative, a team comprised of three recent graduates of Indiana University who are looking for jobs, pitched a campaign called “Around D.C. in 80 beers,” which would reward locals for trying different beers at different venues.

“I wanted to show that I might be a little rough around the edges, but I can be a fit for an agency,” said Brad Klein, 23, who is looking to move from Chicago to Washington for a job.

The winner of the evening, Iostudio, proposed creating a comprehensive happy hour guide on DCBeer.com and using the site’s resources to create a citywide beer festival. There was also talk of using Twitter to promote a “Brew of the Day” and offering beer tastings and classes to the public.

“I liked that there were a number of options at varying price points,” said Bill DeBaun, the co-editor of DCBeer.com. “Those are all things we don’t do now and could do.”

700

The number of advertising and marketing workers in Greater Washington per 100,000 residents.

Abha Bhattarai covers local retail, hospitality and banking for The Washington Post. She has previously written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters and the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times.
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