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Old March 10th, 2009, 03:37 PM   #1
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Selling A TV Ad

I did a search on this site and did not find any relevant posts although there is probably one somewhere within the 1 million +
We came up with a great idea for a TV ad for a major company, and I'm wondering the best method to get it out there.
I'm thinking I should script it and copyright at the Library of Congress. We could then shoot a demo, although I don't know if that would be necessary.
I did a Google search and came up with some ad companies but thought I would seek advice on here first. I checked out The Spec Spot - TV Commercial Production, pretty cool site with off the wall ads. I know the TV Ad market is a well fished pond so the bait has to be fresh.

The question is how to get an idea to an ad agency. How to get a foot in the door. And where is that door anyways?
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Old March 10th, 2009, 07:49 PM   #2
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Wow! That's bigger than a breadbox.

I cannot speak to the legal aspects, but I think you've chosen a difficult path. Ad agencies, at least the bigger ones, will have in-house creative so coming in from the outside will be tough unless you have a real rip-snorter of a concept. Finding the agencies should be easy. You can start with the Yellow Pages and work up to directories from publications like Advertising Age (if they're still around).

Another approach might be to go direct to the client if you have one particularly well suited for your concept. There's potholes there too because the client's current agency might take a dim view of you getting between them and their client.
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Old March 11th, 2009, 12:26 AM   #3
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As the former owner of an advertising agency, I can tell you that what you're suggesting is nearly impossible.

There are two reasons. The first is that advertising is NOT typically driven by creative work. It's driven by RESEARCH. That process starts with customer analysis, product analysis, often focus groups and branding studies and from THOSE a marketing plan is developed. The creative ads are created to support those elements. NEVER the other way around. Starting with a creative approach for the ad is like shooting a photograph of a fish dinner as a way to start the process of cooking the fish dinner. The photo is the END of the process - not the beginning. And the creative ad is the END of the marketing process - NEVER the beginning.

The second reason is a subject commonly discussed here. Copyright ownership. No advertising agency worth the name will take unsolicited submissions from outsiders. Agencies employ their own creatives who are tasked with developing in-house work in a process that insures that the work is the property of the commissioning client and nobody else.

Just like in hollywood if you try to pitch your idea for your great movie to someone legitimately in the business they won't even LISTEN to you if you don't have a agent and some legitimate intro to the creative system in place. That exists so that there's no confusion as to who owns the creative ideas and implementations.

Same with advertising.

It's not easy to understand, but that's the way it actually works.

If you want to create advertising, you need to seek employment with a legitimate ad agency - or at least make a contact in one so that you can secure a freelance assignment.

Without that or direct employment there's just too much risk in place to take the chance to use outside ideas.

Sorry, but that's just the way it works.
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Old March 11th, 2009, 12:29 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Thesken View Post
We came up with a great idea for a TV ad for a major company, and I'm wondering the best method to get it out there.
You don't. Not like that.

For one thing, using a trademarked name and product in a production is going to make it null and void - you won't be able to use it anywhere, and they won't touch it with a ten-foot pole in case they're working on something similar (and don't want to be accused of plagiarism). And depending on how vindictive the trademark owner is, you might find yourself on the sharp end of a very severely-worded cease-and-desist lawyer letter (again, for using someone else's trademark).

For another, you're approaching the problem the wrong way. Marketing campaigns start with marketing studies, focus groups, polls, lots and lots and lots of financial reports and number crunching. Then, based on what they have, they engineer what they need. That's when they hire a marketing firm., which has teams of creative people who do nothing all day but come up with award-winning ads - only those ads are tailored to all those aforementioned reports and studies.

Advertising is a science. It's always by design. It's never just about being clever.


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Old March 11th, 2009, 01:38 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Bill Davis View Post
As the former owner of an advertising agency, I can tell you that what you're suggesting is nearly impossible.

There are two reasons. The first is that advertising is NOT typically driven by creative work. It's driven by RESEARCH. That process starts with customer analysis, product analysis, often focus groups and branding studies and from THOSE a marketing plan is developed. The creative ads are created to support those elements. NEVER the other way around. Starting with a creative approach for the ad is like shooting a photograph of a fish dinner as a way to start the process of cooking the fish dinner. The photo is the END of the process - not the beginning. And the creative ad is the END of the marketing process - NEVER the beginning.

The second reason is a subject commonly discussed here. Copyright ownership. No advertising agency worth the name will take unsolicited submissions from outsiders. Agencies employ their own creatives who are tasked with developing in-house work in a process that insures that the work is the property of the commissioning client and nobody else.

Just like in hollywood if you try to pitch your idea for your great movie to someone legitimately in the business they won't even LISTEN to you if you don't have a agent and some legitimate intro to the creative system in place. That exists so that there's no confusion as to who owns the creative ideas and implementations.

Same with advertising.

It's not easy to understand, but that's the way it actually works.

If you want to create advertising, you need to seek employment with a legitimate ad agency - or at least make a contact in one so that you can secure a freelance assignment.

Without that or direct employment there's just too much risk in place to take the chance to use outside ideas.

Sorry, but that's just the way it works.
"what you're suggesting is nearly impossible"

Bill, Thank you.
These are the most encouraging words I've heard all day, to someone like me. The road less travelled and all. Man I'll tell you there is nothing that remotely compares to challenging the impossible. I'm always biting off more than I can chew, have too many projects in the works to finish them all. This little idea is just a small piece of the puzzle, but now has my interest. The research for this little gig is limited to myself and my small tribe of kids who like the idea, and I've come to realize that what kids like, usually goes mainstream. The great thing about having a bunch of little kids (7-15 yrs old) and their friends around is that you see life from their perspective, fun, mostly humorous, cruel sometimes, but a little more pure and devoid of PC or BS. Many years ago I copyrighted a novel with the Libary of Congress, and I'm still thinking that's the way to go for any script.
I'm leaning towards filming the demo to add to the pitch, not as the finished product..

So...
What is the suggested route to search for that door to knock on?
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Old March 11th, 2009, 06:38 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Thesken View Post
"what you're suggesting is nearly impossible"

... Many years ago I copyrighted a novel with the Libary of Congress, and I'm still thinking that's the way to go for any script.
...What is the suggested route to search for that door to knock on?
You missed the point on the copyright problem, I think. It's not that you're sending uncopyrighted work. It's that agencies or production companies won't look at any unsolicited material in order to protect themselves from allegations of infringement if at some point in the future they happen to produce an ad that resembles the one you had submitted to them. It would be hard for them to have copied something they haven't seen so they return all unolicited materials unopened.

I've always believed that spec ads were not made with the expectation that they would actually be bought to become part of an ad campaign. I think of them as more on the order of visual resumes, made to show that the producer is able to take an advertising concept through to a finished product. They're a demo reel on steroids. Ad agencies may not have an in-house production department. Instead they hire an outside production company to do the actual shooting. They're going to go with someone whom they feel can take the concept from the agency creatives and realize it in the way they want it done. A well-done spec ad in your portfolio demonstrates to agencies considering hiring you that you can do that.
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Old March 11th, 2009, 09:00 AM   #7
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Bill, I think you need to ask yourself what you want to get out of this expierence. If it's money and seeing the commercial on air, then major companies and ad agencies are NOT the correct paths to take. As stated above, "outsider's" work is not even considered because it 1. Makes a legal headache and 2. it undervalues their own ad work.

If you have the production means why not shop it around to local companies that don't use ad agencies? It will then be a great jumping off point to perhaps get in the local ad biz if you can keep the creative juices flowing.

Another alternative is to look for commercial contests. Many big companies have contests where the public can make commercials and they reward the winners with cash and the commercial airing on TV. CHeck out youtube and the contest section and you'll see lots of these. I think Turbo Tax does one every year. Check out geniusrocket.com as well. Companies post ad needs on the site and site members can create content for the companies, if it's selected the creator gets paid. Just be sure to read the fine print on some of these contests because sometimes they will say by entering your work you are giving them the rights to it.
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Old March 11th, 2009, 04:15 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Thesken View Post
"what you're suggesting is nearly impossible"

Bill, Thank you.
These are the most encouraging words I've heard all day
You omitted to quote the most important part of that sentence: "As the former owner of an advertising agency..." In other words, Bill is precisely the type of person you're going to try to approach with your commercial idea. His reaction will be their reaction - only they'll be in a defensive position and might go on the offensive.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Thesken View Post
Many years ago I copyrighted a novel with the Libary of Congress, and I'm still thinking that's the way to go for any script.
Your copyright won't be valid because you're writing about someone else's intellectual property/trademark.


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Old March 11th, 2009, 07:05 PM   #9
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As someone who's been on both the client and vendor side of the media biz for a couple of decades, all I can say is the responses here so far are dead-on accurate and match my experience exactly.

More importantly, you need to realize that this is not about having *an* idea -- everyone has one and without even knowing yours I can tell you it isn't unique -- someone has already thought of it, pitched it, and had it rejected.

Many years ago, when I was a production executive in the Network TV business, I taught a class at UCLA about how to build a career in the business, and the first question from someone was always, "I have this great idea for a show. How do I get it on the air as a series?" And the answer was then as it is now: You can't. Networks, clients, ad agencies... they're not interested in your ideas. The "idea" is the single *least* valuable commodity in the business. It's all about execution. They want someone who can churn out ad after ad, or episode after episode... and the way to do that is to join a company that does this and learn how to do it.

This is like any other business. If you wanted to build missiles you'd learn a little bit about it before you said you had a great idea about how to build one. But for some reason everyone thinks they can produce media without any training or experience in the business.

All that being said, you should still pursue your idea and let us know how it goes (and I swear I'm not being sarcastic). Who knows... you could be the one exception to the rule and prove us all wrong.

I know that probably isn't what you want to hear and doesn't really answer your question:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Thesken View Post
What is the suggested route to search for that door to knock on?
Do the following:
Go to business school and get an MBA in advertising and marketing; get an internship in an agency; get hired full time in the mailroom; get promoted to receptionist; get promoted to someone's assistant in the accounts department (not creative); attend every meeting for five years and take copious notes; get your boss drunk and pitch him/her some ideas; get promoted to junior copywriter; toil in obscurity for ten years; get promoted to junior account executive; get promoted to senior account executive; get promoted to creative director; pitch and win new client account; meet with client; do market research and segmentation studies; pitch idea. Get idea rejected because client has a nephew with a "better" one.

That's the quickest way I know.

Last edited by Adam Gold; March 11th, 2009 at 10:01 PM.
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Old March 11th, 2009, 11:40 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Adam Gold View Post
Do the following:
Go to business school and get an MBA in advertising and marketing; get an internship in an agency; get hired full time in the mailroom; get promoted to receptionist; get promoted to someone's assistant in the accounts department (not creative); attend every meeting for five years and take copious notes; get your boss drunk and pitch him/her some ideas; get promoted to junior copywriter; toil in obscurity for ten years; get promoted to junior account executive; get promoted to senior account executive; get promoted to creative director; pitch and win new client account; meet with client; do market research and segmentation studies; pitch idea. Get idea rejected because client has a nephew with a "better" one.

That's the quickest way I know.
Is this a true story?

Thank you all for taking the time to respond. Six very blunt answers. Like being cornered in a dark alley and seeing a baseball bat in the wrong hands.

The ad business must be dog eat dog on it's best days. Anything with money and power and ego generally is.
I know, I know...
Ideas are worthless unless acted upon. Producing that idea into a product, entertainment or otherwise that can be utilized by others is the key. Get down there and start digging that ditch. Think it through a bit and plan it out, but start digging!
That's the reason I went out on a limb, bought a camera to make movies, found this site
and started churning out video rubbish. I'm trying to figure out the technical side of production to bring the ideas to life. It aint easy. But I'm digging that ditch every day, filming and filming and editing, and writing. It's a great life.

Anyways, I found and knocked on a couple of big doors. I don't expect an answer. I think the key is to produce some funny, irreverent spec ads as the resume. I'll post them here first. Thanks again. BT
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Old March 12th, 2009, 01:15 AM   #11
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[QUOTE=Bill Thesken;1026403]Is this a true story?

Thank you all for taking the time to respond. Six very blunt answers. Like being cornered in a dark alley and seeing a baseball bat in the wrong hands.

The ad business must be dog eat dog on it's best days. Anything with money and power and ego generally is.
I know, I know...


Bill,

Sorry, but you don't know. Really, this isn't criticism. It's just reality.

What you're essentially saying is that your idea is so unique, so superior, so special that the idea itself is enough to generate monetary value. And what everyone with experience here is telling you is that this just isn't the truth. Ideas are a dime a dozen. You're sitting at your keyboard thinking that you've dreamed up the key idea? - well so are thousands of junior copywriters at ad agencies all over the world. They dream up key ideas day in and day out. The difference is that they have to pitch their ideas to other professionals who assess them from a hundred different viewpoints. A very small percentage of those key ideas are judged to be the right idea at the right time to match with the right client who's need precisely matches that results that that idea MIGHT produce. Those few are then TESTED against live audience reactions. Usually they're tested against OTHER approaches and ideas. ONLY the ideas that score highest are ever actually seen in the marketplace.

Why?

Because of another reality that your approach tells us that you don't yet understand. You see, in commercial production, the cost of the commercial is the LEAST important financial commitment in the chain. The cost of securing access to an audience through a TIME BUY on commercial broadcast stations typically DWARFS the cost of producing the ad.

It's an inverted pyramid. The spot is the tip, the timebuy is where the real money is risked.

Thousands, or hundreds of thousands, or in the case of national ads, even MILLIONS of dollars depend on the effectiveness of each and every frame of the 30 seconds of the ad.

In a good ad, there's not a FRAME that's wasted.

I've been in meetings where whole days have been spent trying to determine whether the haircut of the actress is "too edgy" and while it might appeal to the 20 year olds, might alienate the 35+ year old women in the audience.

In commercials it's THAT important to get it as right as possible. Because buckets of money will be spent sending insanely temporary electron streams out into the great ether in the hopes that someone will decode them, see them and react.

So please understand that an "idea" generated by someone who's sum total of bona fide commerical production experience is "watching" commercials might be viewed with less than reverence by an industry that has so much at stake.

I'm not saying that your commercial idea is bad. It might be WONDERFUL. But truely, unless you've paid your dues alongside the legions of people already working in the industry who live, breathe, sink or swim on their judgement and experience in this kind of high dollar pressure cooker - why would anyone give you their money rather than give it to an actual professional to craft their ad?

There's just too much risk involved.

But I agree with whoever told you to hold to your dream and push forward if you must. By all means start into the industry and start learning the ropes. And who knows, maybe someday you'll actually get the chance to test your ideas against the pros in the real world of advertising.

Don't expect it to be easy. But in the world of ideas, anything is possible.

Good luck.
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Old March 12th, 2009, 07:50 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Thesken View Post
Is this a true story?

Thank you all for taking the time to respond. Six very blunt answers. Like being cornered in a dark alley and seeing a baseball bat in the wrong hands.

The ad business must be dog eat dog on it's best days. Anything with money and power and ego generally is.
I know, I know...
Ideas are worthless unless acted upon. Producing that idea into a product, entertainment or otherwise that can be utilized by others is the key. Get down there and start digging that ditch. Think it through a bit and plan it out, but start digging!
That's the reason I went out on a limb, bought a camera to make movies, found this site
and started churning out video rubbish. I'm trying to figure out the technical side of production to bring the ideas to life. It aint easy. But I'm digging that ditch every day, filming and filming and editing, and writing. It's a great life.

Anyways, I found and knocked on a couple of big doors. I don't expect an answer. I think the key is to produce some funny, irreverent spec ads as the resume. I'll post them here first. Thanks again. BT
BT, to put things into perspective...
I'm a small fish, and I voiced over 1000 ads last year & edited hundreds of commercials.
You have an idea for a single commercial, and don't know how to produce it.
I'm not trying to belittle you, but maybe your not cut-out for the ad business.

Good Luck!
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Old March 12th, 2009, 02:36 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Bill Thesken View Post
Is this a true story?
It's less an actual story than a methodology with the most common base in reality as to how it typically happens.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Thesken View Post
I think the key is to produce some funny, irreverent spec ads as the resume.
And show them to whom? And expect what result?

Actually, sometimes there are exceptions. In my above-mentioned class, right after we did the session on spec scripts, some students came up and said they'd written a spec script for a popular detective series, and sent it to that series' producers. Well, the conventional wisdom, then as now, is that if you write a spec script for a particular series, you send it to everyone *except* the producers of that series, as they know the show best and will likely feel threatened and will most likely hate your script. But others won't know the series as well and will likely judge you more fairly on the fundamentals of screen storytelling. So as I was repeating all this to them, and how it was a dumb idea to send it to the producers of the show they wrote the script for, because they had no chance of selling it, they looked at me blankly, paused just the right amount of time, and said, "But they *did* buy it. We got hired as staff writers."

Oof.

There are always exceptions. You may be one.
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Old March 12th, 2009, 03:39 PM   #14
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Kudos to Adam Gold and Bill Davis! There's not nearly enough "Tough Love" on this forum. The video/film/advertising worlds are difficult battlegrounds mostly controlled by lawyers and bean counters. Ask any professional on this list and they will tell you flat out that the people who actually produce content are the lowest paid and least appreciated in the commercial food chain. It is very much an inverted pyramid as Bill says.

Advice from folks who've been there, done that, got the T-shirt is worth it's weight and gold and should be thoughtfully considered.
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Old March 12th, 2009, 03:57 PM   #15
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Adam,
It was a good story. Sounded like personal knowledge. The fastest way is probably marrying the bosses daughter, though it doesn't play as well. When I read the replies I laughed and thought holy cow why even bother getting out of bed in the morning?
Anyways, I'm putting together an ad for a local clothing company, nothing major, but so what, it's a start. I've already got most of the footage and will gather the rest the next few days.
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