How to pitch a video concept your client will love

When you make a video, the creative concept behind it is key, but the concept is only the first step – the way you pitch it to your client is just as important.

Here are the 4 things we do at Demo Duck, my Chicago-based video agency, to ensure the best ideas always win.

1. Pick only the best ideas

Once we have a creative brief and objective defined, we assign a Producer and Creative Lead. These two individuals typically take a day or two to get to know the brief and client inside and out before scheduling a team brainstorm.

The brainstorm is where the entire team starts spitballing ideas – good or bad, just get them on the table. The best ideas have enough meat on the bone that you can clearly envision how the video will play out just by hearing a quick 30-second pitch. They should also strike a healthy balance between strategy and creative. Easier said than done: without a strategy, the concept has no backbone, and without a creative vision, the strategy won’t be successful.

With a list of 10–20 ideas in place, we start picking them apart, asking for more detail and challenging the direction. Then we all vote on our favorites and try to end up with 3–5 really solid concepts. The last step, and most critical, is to weed out any “safe” ideas. If you want to make a video that is unique, engaging and ultimately worth watching, you need to kill the safe ideas now and end up with 2–3 concepts you’re truly excited about working on.

2. Develop a compelling pitch deck

A pitch deck is what you’ll use to present your video concepts to your team or client. A compelling deck should include these five components for each concept:

Intriguing headline

The headline gets your audience interested in what you’re about to say. In some cases, it may serve as the tagline for the video, or for a potential campaign.

Flavor read

A flavor read is 2–3 lines that give your audience a feel for the tone of the piece. It’s essentially a few lines from the opening narration of your concept’s script.

Strategy and technical approach

This section should cover why you’re proposing the concept and how you plan to get it done. What’s the strategy behind the concept? What style will it be in? How will you accomplish it?

Reference videos

Links to reference videos help your audience better envision each concept. Pro tip: provide a brief description of why you selected each reference video (e.g. for tone, style, lighting, energy).

Mood images

We usually include a couple of mood images. These don’t necessarily represent the proposed style direction for the video, but they do help set the mood and enhance the visual nature of the pitch.

Here’s a sample concept slide from our internal pitch deck template:

3. Deliver a passionate pitch

Creating a compelling deck is only half the battle. The next challenge is selling your team or client on your ideas. At least two hours before the pitch, do a dry run with everyone involved. This is your chance to refine your delivery and make any last-minute updates to the deck. If possible, do the pitch in person, otherwise set up a video conference.

During the pitch, request that clients hold questions until the end. This keeps things from getting sidetracked during the pitch (and believe me, things will get sidetracked). Like any good presentation, the pitch should be part presentation of information and part theater. In order to sell your ideas, you need to present them with passion and conviction. Your audience wants to see your excitement for their project, and chances are, they’ll get excited with you.

4. Be prepared for pushback

As you might expect, passion alone won’t sell every concept. You should be prepared for pushback and to defend why you stand behind the ideas you’re presenting. This is where that initial brainstorm and dry run come in handy. By now, you should have a decent idea of what your audience is going to push back on, and a well-prepared defense.

Without a good defense and strategy in place, you’ll find clients kicking you out of the driver seat and starting to provide their own twists on your concepts (almost always a bad thing). Treat these concepts like your children – protect them with your life. This doesn’t mean you can’t make refinements to your original concepts, it just means you need to maintain your practitioner position and hold your ground at all costs. Ultimately, you’ll end up with more compelling concepts and projects that you’re more excited about and invested in.

And that’s the end goal, right? Doing work that gets you out of bed in the morning, stretches your creative boundaries and has a lasting impact for your client and their cause.

What has (and hasn't) worked for you when developing and pitching concepts for your clients? We'd love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.

Author: Andrew Follett, Founder of Demo Duck and Video Brewery

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8 viral ads that won 2015

The Internet has transformed advertising, opening new paths and creating new genres for commercial filmmakers. These are some of the most shared videos of 2015, each viral ad demonstrating ways the Internet continues to disrupt traditional content creation.

1. Android, “Friends Furever”

Smart content creators look at viral videos to learn what people like. Even smarter creators take viral video formats and repurpose them to get their message out. Android’s “Friends Furever” is basically just a YouTube compilation video with a message at the end, but it’s fresh and fun to watch. More importantly, it works—”Friends Furever” was the most viral ad of 2015.

2. Disney Parks, “Disney Characters Surprise Shoppers”

This viral ad uses a tried and true advertising strategy—the filmed live event. Videos in this style tend to feel staged, but “Disney Characters Surprise Shoppers” is surprisingly heartfelt and convincing. Its longer run time (2 minutes, 16 seconds) allows the filmmakers to use more natural pacing in the edit, which gives viewers the chance to relate to the people on-screen and share a sense of nostalgia at the end.

3. Purina, “Puppyhood”

Purina partnered with Buzzfeed to produce “Puppyhood,” a cute short video about a young adult and his new puppy. It’s not exactly a short film, but it’s not what you’d expect from an ad, either. “Puppyhood” represents the next big step in sponsored content. Most ads are still trying to interrupt or distract you from watching something else. With more than three million shares, Purina and Buzzfeed demonstrated that sponsored content like “Puppyhood” can be the destination itself.

4. GEICO, “Unskippable”

Adweek chose “Unskippable” as the best ad of 2015. GEICO’s viral ad is a perfect example of a commercial designed around the context people will see it in. “Unskippable” was created for the web, meaning that its largest audience would be seeing it on services like YouTube and Hulu. And so the ad begins with a joke about YouTube pre-roll videos. It’s funny, contemporary, and succeeded in getting viewers to watch all the way to the end.

5. Adidas, “Unfollow feat. Leo Messi”

The celebrity athlete commercial has become something of a cliche. Adidas shakes it up by mixing TV news footage, social media, and dynamic sports content, demonstrating what it means to be a celebrity today. It then flips the script when Messi encourages his fans to “unfollow” him in order to make their own dreams come true. Using music from a lesser-known artist (P.O.S. “Stand Up”), “Unfollow” makes it feel like Messi’s own personal anthem. Mixing the mega-popular with the somewhat obscure gives the viral ad a unique tone.

6. “The Collective Project: Robert Downey Jr. Delivers a Real Bionic Arm”

Who says a viral ad can’t be both funny and inspirational? Microsoft Office’s video with The Collective Project mixed an inspirational message, a moving event, and a giant movie star to generate a major crowd-pleaser. Kleenex’s “Unlikely Best Friends” was similarly inspiring, but didn’t generate as many shares. It’s hard to say whether it’s the humor or the movie star that makes The Collective Project’s video so appealing, but the combination was enough to generate more than ten million views on YouTube.

7. Red Nose Day, “Coldplay’s Game of Thrones: The Musical”

A mockumentary following a famous rock band, who are working on a musical about the biggest TV sh0w in the world. Narrated by Liam Neeson. It’s easy to see how “Coldplay’s Game of Thrones: The Musical” tallied 15 million views, even though it’s 12 minutes long. What’s not clear is what the video had to do with the Red Nose Day charity. Rather than creating a typical call to arms video, Red Nose Day gave viewers entertaining content and then invited them to donate if they enjoyed it. It’s a whole new kind of viral ad. Did their strategy pay off? It’s hard to say; we’ll see if they take a similar approach next year.

8. The Ad Council, “Love Has No Labels”

The Ad Council used a giant X-ray to show people how their feelings have been affected by unknown biases. It’s a classic device, brilliantly used. If that great idea wasn’t enough, they joined the live event with a music video format, creating a video that punches through prejudice to hit the audience right in the heart.

As traditional models become less powerful, filmmakers have the opportunity to tailor their content to the stories they want to tell and the spaces they want to tell them in. Sponsored content and viral ads allow for a truer blend of filmmaking and advertising than every before. What were your favorite viral ads of the last year? Have you made any long form product videos or advertisements? Share a link in the comments.

Author: Stephen Heleker

Stephen is a filmmaker and writer living in Los Angeles. He grew up in southwest Idaho and worked as a video producer/director before moving to Los Angeles to pursue an MFA in Directing at UCLA. Twitter: @stephenheleker

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