Pizza pitch draws national attention to Libertyville firm

Advertising agency will be featured on AMC reality show tonight

A backyard barbecue conversation last summer has become promotional gold for a Libertyville advertising firm.

Bee-line Communications Inc. will be featured at 10 p.m. today on AMC's “The Pitch” reality show that offers a behind the scenes look at what advertising agencies go through to win a business account.

Founded in 2008 by Stacey McClenathan, the company is competing against commonground, a Chicago firm, to create a campaign for the Little Caesars pizza chain.

“It's a contrast how the city kids do it versus how we do it in the burbs,” McClenathan said. “You'll see our lives and what it's like to do what we do.”

The process began in August 2012, when a sales person for one of her clients was at a barbecue and happened to speak with someone from the AMC network about the show, now in its second season.

“He gave them our name and they reached out directly,” McClenathan said. Roughly 100 agencies were considered for the eight-episode show.

Talks ensued and despite legal advice, McClenathan said she agreed to sign a contract that basically gave them no say in what would eventually appear.

“This is one of those things you have to take a leap of faith and hope it works out,” she said. “I was a fan of Season 1 — they did a good job of not making any agency look bad even if you don't like their idea.”

Filming began in late March, when the teams went to downtown Chicago to meet with Little Caesars executives. Competitors were given a week to develop a multi-message campaign highlighting the quality of the pizza chain's dough, cheese and sauce to include a 30-second web spot. Work began immediately.

“The second we walked out of the room, we were on our cellphones like crazy people,” McClenathan said. An advance from Bee-line says the team “drank over 405 cups of coffee, had extremely bad hair days and laughed with tears in our eyes,” as cameras rolled.

McClenathan said she was working for Motorola's mobile device unit when she was on bed rest with her third child. During that time away, she decided to start her own company. From its origins in her basement, it has grown to 50 employees, including 30 overseas.

The company's specialty is digital media, but McClenathan said she couldn't say what the work involved for the competition.

“I'm contractually not allowed to tell you what the challenge is,” she said.

She also has known since filming ended whether her company prevailed in the competition, but also is barred from discussing it.

“For us, just being chosen and being on it we won,” McClenathan said.

“We don't care what the show outcome is.”

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