‘Pitch’ perfect

Alum Scott Brown pits his Houston-based firm against international competition and walks away a winner

Ad man Scott Brown’s journey from behind the scenes to in front of the camera began a year ago – appropriately enough — with an ad. But the ad was not one produced by his firm, FKM, a full-service advertising agency; instead, it was one he happened upon in a magazine.

Brown, FKM’s president and chief creative officer and a 1992 Rice graduate, stumbled upon a discussion in a trade magazine that caught his attention: A new reality show was being developed to follow up and capitalize on the hit show “Mad Men.”

Scott Brown

The new program, appropriately named “The Pitch,” is billed as a “docu-series” and explores the stress put on the country’s top ad agencies competing to land new accounts. Each episode of the show pits two agencies against one another as they vie to win a client, then adds an additional hurdle. The teams are given only a couple of weeks – significantly less time than usual — to prepare a client-wowing proposal, or pitch, that could alter their careers.

At the time he read the article, Brown had only been heading up FKM for about six months. It was a medium-sized agency and had faced a number of disappointments. But, with Brown at the helm, FKM was on the rebound.

“We were going through hard times, but fighting our way back, and I had stars in my eyes when I read the article,” said Brown, who earned his Rice degrees in French and managerial studies. “I picked up the phone and called the production company and told them I had a David and Goliath-type proposition: Put us up against anyone.”

Brown admits it was a bold move, but that presented two possibilities for winning: FKM could triumph in the actual competition – or lose the competition but still come across as smart and creative, which could attract new business.

“I was pretty confident we could get that second win,” Brown said.

The episode that featured FKM pitted the Texas-based firm against Toronto-based The Hive as they matched creative wits for the client Clockwork Home Services, the parent company of the Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, Mister Sparky and One-Hour Heating & Air Conditioning brands.

After two weeks of filming in Houston, Brown and his FKM team flew to Florida and presented their pitch to Clockwork.

While FKM actually presented three different pitches to Clockwork, the episode only focused on one – the eventual winning concept, “+Help.”

+Help, Brown explained, expands Clockwork’s current focus on its on-time and service money-back guarantees while establishing a complementary platform for the brand’s marketing, advertising and promotion. 

With the insight that most home service calls are reactionary, made in a time of stress and involving a major issue in the home, FKM’s team produced and pitched a trio of campaign ideas demonstrating how Clockwork brands can help consumers get back to normal quickly.

“We take care of customers, and FKM really captured that and they thought of a great campaign to bring it to life,” said Clockwork President Scott Boose.

Though winning contestants are not promised a contract with the company they pitched to, Brown and FKM were able to ink a deal with Clockwork. As a result of FKM’s efforts, Schedulesomehelp.com launched in May. The interactive website – which serves all three brands under the Clockwork umbrella – starts by asking customers what they need, then through a series of entertaining automated questions gives them a guaranteed price and the nearest location.

“Showcasing a point of intersection between the three brands in one ad campaign was a big challenge,” Brown said. “The platform markets all brands equally and gives consumers a fun and smart reason to call.”

To view the episode of “The Pitch” that featured Brown and his FKM team, visit www.amctv.com/shows/the-pitch/episodes/season-1/clockwork-the-hive-fkm.

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About Arie Passwaters

Arie Wilson Passwaters is a Web editor in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.