Conversation CEO Frank O'Brien Stands Out In Episode Four Of AMC's 'The Pitch' For The Wrong Reasons

By Aaron Perlut

In episode four of AMC's new reality TV series The Pitch, New York-based agency Conversation vies with Charlotte-based BooneOakley for the business of fast-growing snack-maker PopChips, which is looking to have an agency "create a digital video or interactive campaign that people will want to share."

English translation: Make something that will ultimately go viral.

As in episode three, the contrast in agencies is stark, which is certainly by the producer's design. But what is most astounding, at least to me, is the manner in which Conversation founder and CEO Frank O'Brien polarizes, well, anyone within arm's reach.

We know we are in for a treat when O'Brien remarks about his initial impressions of BooneOakley after the initial brief from PopChips CEO Keith Belling and his team.

"The questions the other agency asked were kiss-ass, which is very off-putting," he tells us. And later he informs us that "We're usually the first to utilize new forms of media" (just like Conversation's Flash website that inhibits SEO and limits usability).

Then comes a cultural train wreck inside the walls of Conversation.

O'Brien enters the team meeting and informs his staff the campaign will be "People of Pop," a website where people will upload videos and photos (novel idea), with a video that will set the world record for the longest, most viewed viral video ever. No brainstorm, no collective thought, nada.

One of his employees looks dumbfounded, remarking, "That's not very impressive."

O'Brien then tells us about his perspective on ideas or concerns that emanate from staff: "My focus isn't on other people's opinions."

How loveable!

Design director David Orellano is seen struggling with O'Brien's concept, arguing with his boss (who is utterly dismissive of any concern), leaving work to play drums and clear his head, and then we are told Orellano has had a breakthrough â¿¿ apparently "The Year Of Pop," which essentially encompasses the initial "People of Pop" concepts.

The Conversation team then reviews the more fully baked idea post-Orellano's touches, and an employee calls it "a dope idea."

O'Brien, with great humility, quickly tells the employee, "It's a dope idea that I came up with."

Are you kidding me?

(Spoiler alert.)

In the end, Frank and his Conversation team â¿¿ he takes three others to the final pitch who say nothing â¿¿ win the PopChips business.

And congratulations to O'Brien and his agency, which obviously worked hard to come up with a winning idea. The thing is, I cannot imagine anyone who would see the episode and want to work for him. And one has to wonder what the PopChips folks will think about their new agency chief after seeing the episode.

Conversely, while the BooneOakley partners seem like great idea generators who simply lack direction (and their final idea, indeed, lacked direction), at least there is a sincere interest in the thoughts of their team, a genuine concern for their employees' well being, and a general respect for colleagues throughout the agency.

What stands out most from episode four of The Pitch is, quite sadly, a seemingly self-centered, combative agency founder who is disliked by his employees and just may be very lonely, very soon, if he doesn't learn some modicum of appreciation for those around him.

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