I confess. I’m addicted to the lowest-rated cable series on earth: AMC’s The Pitch, a cringe-inducing reality show that pits two ad agencies against each other in a battle to win a juicy account. The first season’s ratings were so low that the Nielson score for the April 30, 2012, episode was 0.0% or a total of 45,000 adult viewers in the US.
Imagine my surprise to learn that The Pitch is back for another season! AMC is known for gutsiness. Perhaps the enormous successes of other AMC programs like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and The Walking Dead have given the network space to stick its neck out for a second year in a row.
Back again are the client de-briefings, the late night brainstorming sessions, the internal tensions, the snarky assessments of the competition, the shaping of the creative, and the panicked deadlines, all leading up to the big pitch to the client. You don’t need to be in advertising to feel the chill this show is designed to bring. Anyone who has ever had to create and present an idea understands the dread, the fear, the joy, and the sorrow of exposing ideas for judgement. What makes the show so enticing is that we viewers get to size up the work of the two agencies and decide who has the better idea and the better chance of being awarded the account. Interestingly, the best idea does not always win. Check out the show to see what I mean.
Nobody sees a flower—really—it is so small—we haven’t time—and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.
In a few simple words, Georgia O’Keeffe gets to the heart of it. Truly seeing takes time, patience, and attention, yes. But the key to observation is the mental state of the observer. To see clearly, it helps to enjoy the act of observation. Just like the enjoyment of building a friendship over the years, seeing needs to happen when we love what we are doing. It’s helpful to keep this in mind on days when work feels like a struggle. It may be time to kick back, have a cup of coffee, or take a half hour walk across campus. A change of pace helps to clear away frustration so that you can return to the task refreshed and raring to go.
I recently re-read Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth and became absorbed, once again, in the harrowing and moving world of peasant Wang Lung and his family. Banned in China for years, the book is now hailed by contemporary Chinese writers such as Anchee Min and Maxine Hong Kingston for its authentic portrayal of ordinary Chinese lives. Buck wrote with authority because she pulled from her observations as a missionary’s daughter in China and experienced first-hand the day-to-day lives of the Chinese people around her. Buck also spoke fluent Mandarin and was determined to capture the feel and flow of that language in English. She explained that she conceived the story first in Mandarin Chinese, which she then translated into English. It’s like reading the story in Chinese without the language barrier. That’s why every sentence rings with authenticity. What a wonderful reminder of the power of an authentic voice.